Christmas is, in all senses but the liturgical one, over.
(Liturgically, the "Christmas season" is not over until the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which I believe is coming either this Sunday or next. Yeah, I'm a bad Catholic who hasn't memorized the liturgical calendar. So sue me.)
The end of Christmas is sad.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. Or at least it always has been. I get teased about my Christmas spirit, in fact. About having Christmas excitement in July. :-)
Only lately...sometimes...it feels like an act.
Please don't misunderstand me. I do a lot of things for Christmas that I truly enjoy. I bake, I decorate. I'm in charge of putting the lights on the tree, a multi-day endeavor that no one in our family believes they will ever do as well as Mom does.(!) I love singing in a Christmas concert, I even love tooling about the stores and looking at Candy Cane Lanes, and a bunch of other things. I want to enjoy every single minute of Christmas, as much as I possibly can.
But for many years, I've been feeling the lack of the "magic" part of Christmas, and I'm trying to get it back.
I can't even explain what I'm missing exactly, but I'll bet some of you are nodding in recognition. Some of you disguise this sadness by muttering, "I hate the holidays...so commercial...we've lost the meaning...it's all just a big stress..." and you at least give lip service to claiming to wish it could be different. You understand, I suspect.
Of course, there are also those of you who say, "Well, Christmas is for children, anyway," or some weak-kneed platitude like that. If you truly believe that latter one, you've missed the point for your entire life, including when you were a child. You don't understand, and you need the magic even worse than the rest of us. :-)
But I need my Christmas magic back, regardless.
The magic of sitting by the fully-decorated tree, gazing upon the wrapped presents, watching some Christmas special on TV, or listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate...just BEING in Christmas.
The magic of sitting, rapt, looking at the creche. Gazing on the figures, really seeing them.
The magic of taking time to wonder about what Christmas must be like in places I've always wanted to see, places faraway that I only caught glimpses of through Advent calendars from foreign countries.
That magic of spending time paging slowly through Christmas gift catalogs...and remembering when you were a kid, and you wore out the toy section of the Sears book. :-)
And that breathless magic that takes over when you come into the church on Christmas Eve and it is decked from stem to stern with lights and flowers and evergreens and filled to the brim with music.
Heck, no matter where I am...I need more breathless magic on Christmas Eve, period.
I used to have it. Not so long ago. But I've been noticing it eroding, bit by bit, over the past few years.
So I prayed for it this year. I started praying for it way before Christmas.
What I got was the beginnings of a wonderful season...and then hell broke loose, and we spent the rest of it doing the best we could.
Again, don't get me wrong. There was a lot I did enjoy.
But the old "juice" wasn't back the way I remember it.
And I miss it still.
Even a little snow would have helped...but we didn't even have that grace to fall back on. (And is there anything more depressing than rain at Christmastime?)
So now, I've put everything away. The house is back to pre-Christmas normalcy. Gradually, the presents will be integrated into our lives, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of those things every day.
But something was missing this year, something I still miss.
I want it back.
And it's sad to think that I'll have to wait a whole year more to hope it shows up NEXT time.