Bob and I have two traditions that without fail we adhere to on Christmas Eve.
Someone once said that the English love tradition and Americans love a parade. Bob gets his parade at Thanksgiving; now it’s my turn to enjoy some tradition. That’s why I’m insisting this year on verbalizing, “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Chanukah’s almost over, after all, and Christmas isn’t. Besides, I’m really OK about it if someone wishes me a Happy Chanukah in response – even delighted.
Sharing holidays with each other should become a new tradition.
I digress. The first tradition Bob and I observe on Christmas Eve is to join friends in a tiny church on a hill surrounded by woods. It only gets used once in winter and Christmas Eve is it. It couldn’t be more picture-post-card if it tried – complete with a potbellied stove to keep us warm and red candles in red apples at the windows.
Snow is usually falling outside.
The service consists of adults and children sharing something special from their lives, a favorite poem, an observation, anything really that contributes to the sense of community. There are some carols and then we all light candles, link hands and sing Silent Night.
You have to be dead not to be wiping away a tear.
The service is followed by a party at my friend Bobbie’s house – and yes, we sing carols around the piano. I suppose this is a chance to tell her that all the effort she makes with food, decorations and seasonal cheer is and has been appreciated by all her friends for many years. For me, she recaptured the magic of Christmas that I knew as a child and I will always treasure it.
Everyone leaves feeling closer and happier than when we went in which I think is the point.
Then Bob and I rush home and do some last-minute gift wrapping and tease ourselves by delaying the moment that we find the DVD and put it in the machine. Because this is what we’ve been looking forward to all year. We wouldn’t dream of spoiling things by being tempted to play this sacred DVD any other time.
We cuddle up, yes, even at our age we cuddle up – our dog is invited, of course – and we push the play button. We’ve done this every year since 2003 when Love Actually was first released. We laugh, cry, comment on the brilliant writing and ensemble acting and hope that it won’t end. It does, of course. It ends with the words “… because love, actually, is all around.”
So in an act of pure plagiarism, that’s what I wish for all of us this holiday season. I wish that we can all experience, in spite of what we read, see and even sometimes feel, that love, actually, is all around.