259: Christmas is (still) magical

259: Christmas is (still) magical

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I’ve seen a lot of posts about the lost magic of Christmas and how the Christmases we remember are better than the Christmases we have today. Christmas used to be “more magical, more simple,” more of everything we feel we’re lacking right now, and fear we will miss with Christmases of the future.

But were they more simple and magical?

That’s up for debate. Firstly, when looking back to childhood Christmases, we don’t realize half of what was going on. It was magical because you were down in the basement playing with your cousins, you weren’t involved in the argument upstairs about the gravy and you had no idea that Uncle Jerry showed up three sheets to the wind. You didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. You lose that when you grow up.

Secondly, even if we’re not looking all the way back to childhood, we tend to fuzz over a lot of “stuff” that was in the background. Time heals all wounds, erases financial issues, and eradicates things that were said. All we know is that 8 years ago, Grandma was still alive and she made the best chocolate cream pie.

While Christmases of the past may not have had the notifications, screens, and other distractions we have today, they still held their own annoyances and difficulties. And those annoyances and difficulties only make sense when compared against the backdrop of the time they’re in. Meaning, if someone from a time we feel was more simple dropped in on our activities this month, some of them might think we are absolutely livin’ the life in the middle of the best Christmas ever, and then point out a whole bunch of past annoyances and difficulties we don’t have to deal with anymore.

That’s the problem with what was versus what is. There are always a few stipulations that we forget exist(ed) to make either reality possible.

Christmas was like… what?

While thinking about all this Christmases of long ago thing, I scrolled along another social media post that showed a Christmas morning in 1920, with two children holding a toy they had just opened near their tree. The comment section was ablaze with conversation about how that picture couldn’t have been real because 1920 was back when folks were dirt poor and anyway, “wasn’t that in the Great Depression?”

I bring this up because I think sometimes we like to paint Christmases of the past as what we want them to be, not what they actually were. They were all simple Christmases where no one had anything and they were just happy to be together, right? Sometimes romanticizing the simple life takes our assumptions completely off base, and sometimes we’re just confused about history in general. (The Great Depression started almost a decade after that Christmas morning picture was taken. That’s not to say that everyone was rollin’ in the dough before that. It’s to say not everyone wasn’t.)

What about right now?

My friend Tom Domres of Small Scale Gardening reminded me of something important though. It’s really the kicker of this entire thing.

These days right here, this holiday right now, is someone’s magic. There are people in your life who will look back on these days right here and talk about how simple and magical they were, how fun it was, and how wonderful the celebrations made them feel.

Christmas has always been a time of hustle and bustle and special extravagance, even if that’s meant something different throughout the years. Every decade of every family has experienced its own difficulties, and Christmas seemed to be a way to step away from that, no matter what that meant at the time.

And maybe the magic is the step away to something different, something special. Forgetting the mess of life, whether it’s 1880, 1980, or present day. Eating food and sharing conversation and being together—however it works for the time in question— knowing it will be a great memory to look back on later.

But here’s another thought

Do you think that in the hustle and bustle of Christmas 10, 25, 50 years ago, your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, had any idea what specific things they were doing to create a memory? Or were they just trying to get the mashed potatoes and the special silverware on the table?

Which is so strange because when I think back to Christmas Eves at my grandpa’s house a million years ago, that is what I remember—mashed potatoes and gold forks, spoons, and knives. And the dish of old fashioned candy that sat on the corner of their buffet. And the Readers Digest Condensed Books that I’d pull off the shelf and read because all the adults were talking about “boring adult stuff”.

Those are the things I remember.

We try so hard to make Christmas special because we want it to be the same kind special of the Christmases we remember. What we don’t realize is that many of the things we remember fondly from Christmases past aren’t even things people tried to create for us as memories.

Read that again.

This time right now will be what someone looks back on later, just like you’re looking back on Christmases of the past. This Christmas will very soon be a Christmas of the past. And yet, we will remember bits and pieces of it and string it into its own kind of magic that we look back on fondly and wish we could recreate.

The purpose of this episode is two fold. First, realize there is magic in the everyday of the Christmas season by just being together and doing Christmas together. Secondly, what we’re trying to create might be some jumbled fantasy in our mind that wasn’t what the people of our Christmases past were even trying to create. And maybe THAT is the ticket. Christmas was special; it was special food and events and it was a step away from the every day. But are we missing what we’re trying to “get back to” because we don’t realize it wasn’t necessarily something they were trying to fabricate or create?

There is a difference in getting together and turning getting together into a thing.

There is a difference in celebrating Christmas and turning the celebration of Christmas into a thing.

Sometimes you will spend all your time making sure the lights and decorations and presents are just so, but the memory and the magic will end up being some random little thing you weren’t even focused on and didn’t realize you were doing.

Don’t forget that the magic is present just as much now as it was then. Don’t miss out on what’s in front of you as you try to gain back what you imagine happened long ago.

— Amy Dingmann, 12-11-23


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2 thoughts on “259: Christmas is (still) magical”

  • Christmas was better back then, cause I was a kid, now I am the granny, mom, wife…..the worker, organizer of Christmas things! Have a wonderful Christmas!

    • I chose a few years ago, instead of wishing for the past…just choosing to be proud, that I reached the age to take over that job!

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