Christmas Day is a holiday perhaps 2020 years old. All around the world, the birth of a child, a child to bring joy and hope into the world is celebrated. Christmas Day is like no other holiday, not only because it is universally celebrated around the world, but because of what it symbolizes. The pure joy of a newborn. Another soul with a chance at greatness on this earth, the possibility of being a difference maker. Most importantly to many, it is the day to commemorate God’s gift to us all on earth, his son Jesus Christ.
There is a special sacredness to Christmas morning. Families, communities, countries come together. It’s a day when strangers greet each other saying simply: “Merry Christmas.” It is usually celebrated at home around a Christmas tree surrounded with gifts to be opened that day, yet it is so much more.
In my lifetime, I have had glorious Christmas mornings with wide-eyed little children opening gifts. Actually, as an eleven-year-old boy I served as an altar boy on a cruise ship at sea in the Caribbean for the Catholic Christmas service way back in 1963. The service was held at midnight in the ship’s movie theater on a small stage. When I went out to light the candles, I was shocked to see the place packed with folks wearing suits, tuxedos and evening gowns. The balcony had an orchestra and choir made up of the folks who either worked or did the entertainment on the vessel. There were people standing in the aisles. Even though many of the Christmas songs were sung in Latin, it seemed everyone still knew the words. To this day, I can still remember the sound of that theater with almost every one singing as one.
However, I also can’t help but remember the four or five Christmas mornings I spent all alone – sometimes without a tree or wrapped gifts. Most of those happened on the East End of Long Island in East Hampton Town with a few in Montauk, a few in Springs, and one in East Hampton Village. They were not sad days, just different. Yet, somehow it was those days that really drove home what Christmas is and should be.
On one of those Christmas mornings, I remember leaving the home I was renting and walking down Newtown Road to Main Street, East Hampton. Bells were ringing from the various churches as people were entering or leaving services all in good cheer. Everyone I passed walking their dogs or just going to get a coffee or whatever burst out to greet me with a “Merry Christmas” and as I passed, I said it to them. I was not alone – because on Christmas Day, there is a Christmas spirit. A day when we all become who we should be every day.
This Christmas, my children are grown, in their thirties, and are literally thousands of miles away. I have a granddaughter in England who will be celebrating her first Christmas. My wife and I are planning to spend the day at home with perhaps a nice 4 mile walk and talk. We have purchased each other a whole slew of gifts that will be smartly wrapped on the table under the Christmas tree all lit up and set up high in our kitchen. We have been listening to and singing along to wonderful Christmas songs all week. We actually celebrate the magic of each other every day, but Christmas is special. Christmas Day is a touch more special to almost everyone around the world, even those of distinct other faiths. The world understands the message of Christmas Day, the message of hope through a newborn. Yes, Christmas Day is unlike any other day of the year.