Denver, 24 December, 2020
It is Christmas Eve here in Colorado, as it is around the Christian world. Although I don’t identify myself with Christianity, the holiday, itself, still is imprinted in my emotional life through years of cultural immersion. As a child, it was my favorite time of year. Not just for the bonanza of gifts my sister and I would receive on Christmas morning, but for that palpable feeling of family, community, togetherness. It was a time of joyful anticipation – of elaborate meals with friends and family. Lavish meals I imagined, as a small boy, Roman emperors indulged in. And the house was decorated with small white lights and fresh cut greenery. And the tree. That smell of a Frasier Fir permeated the house like an invisible fog perpetually reminding me that Christmas was on its way. All the routine activities of life assumed an air of festivity, of fellowship. Wherever I went, I felt good wishing people a merry Christmas, wishing them peace and goodwill. It felt right – it felt holy.
Even though I moved away from my parents when I was 18 and lived in 4 different states and 1 foreign country, I always went back to be with them for Christmas. The holiday always created an invisible bond for us. Despite that my life was so very different from when I was a boy, and that I was so very different, myself; we always found a small, hallowed piece of common ground where we could share our joy and deep abiding kinship and love.
This Christmas is the first in 34 years that I will not be celebrating with my family on the east coast. With my mother’s passing in March and the Coronavirus grounding all of us in our homes, I am breaking a very old tradition.
There will be no lavish Roman feast tomorrow. There will be no bustling about the house wrapping last minute gifts or racing off to the market to pick up some forgotten ingredient for the holiday dinner. There won’t be any loving “Good morning, Merry Christmas!” greetings shared upon arising. In fact, I didn’t even hang a wreath or one small, white light. I guess I didn’t want to try to reproduce an event, an experience that just couldn’t be duplicated under the current circumstances. My mother had her last Christmas last year. I shared it with her. My father is demented and doesn’t know what year it is, let alone what day it is.
But despite all that has irrevocably changed in mine and so many others’ lives, I know something has not changed, something yet remains alive and burning in me like a tiny, unquenchable ember. Something that, despite distance, disease, and death, remains as vitally alive in me this evening as it has so many Christmas eves in the past. That fervently sincere wish for peace and goodwill to all people, all over the globe.
No matter who they are, where they live, who they kneel, bow, or pray to; I wish for them a little peace and goodwill.
No matter what tomorrow or next week or next month may bring, this Christmas eve I wish for nothing more than a little peace and goodwill in the world. I realize that I don’t have to be a Christian, or even religious, to embrace and celebrate what Christ represented and wished for all people in the world – a little peace and goodwill for all.
And so tonight for you, Giulia, and for you, Dinesh, and for all of you I will never meet who read this, I wish a little peace and goodwill because it feels right – it feels holy.