Christmas Eve is rich with images. Little children hang their stockings, lay out treats for Santa Claus, and go to bed dreaming of what the morrow will bring. Parents sigh in relief, relax and assume the role of the mythical Santa. Practicing Christians, and those who claim their Christian heritage only at the “high holidays” of Christmas and Easter, often attend Christmas Eve services. Many will return home for the traditional late-night feast that continues long into the night.
I used to find Christmas Eve a bit of a problem. Christmas Day or Boxing Day are our usual seasonal feast days. Unless we are invited elsewhere, our Christmas Eve is mostly painfully ordinary. Every year, my husband settles in to watch Alastair Sim’s classic movie of A Christmas Carol. I usually seek out a late night service where I know the music will be sublime.
When I was younger, going out alone on Christmas Eve seemed unnatural and somewhat sad. Where were all my loved ones with whom I should be sharing this event? Regret, guilt, the gamut of emotions that detract from the beauty of the moment. In recent years, I have become more mindful of the occasion, and have come to consider my time late Christmas Eve the most spiritual of the year.
Even when there is no snow, it is usually cold. The city is dead quiet. There is no one around, and little traffic. The roads are dark, lit only by street lamps, seasonal household lights, and occasionally the light of the moon. The silence is stunning, a balm for the soul in a period consumed with noise and activity. Whichever church I attend, I will find others, believers and non-believers, who have come together out of the cold (or the wet) to take part in the rituals of our Christian tradition. I am no longer a regular church attendee, but the warmth, light, music, and meditation are always moving.
I return home restored and rejuvenated. Alone, I enjoy the lights of our Christmas tree and a glass of wine in front of the fireplace, listen to my favourite Christmas music, and revel in memories and reflexions. Whether family and friends are close by, far away, or long since gone, the evening reminds me that solitude is part and parcel of the human condition. Ours is an individual journey, a lifetime of opportunities, challenges, choices, and responses. Some we share with others. Some we pursue on our own. My Christmas Eve experience has shown me that making the most of the moment can bring the greatest of happiness.
I have a friend who ends her emails with a quote from Wayne Dyer: “Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place you must find,” and adds the line, “and so I support… ” – whatever cause she now champions. I love her spirit. May the blessings of the season be with you, and may the new year bring heaven on earth to each and everyone.