Sunday, December 9, 2007

JWN: Feeling The Holiday Spirit

Over the last few years I've struggled to find the "holiday spirit." My family has been through quite a lot and has become increasingly spread out across the United States. Thus, it's often difficult for us all to come together. And, "coming together" by definition for us has changed. Usually I would not get caught by the holiday spirit until right about Christmas day, but this year seems to be a little different and it has me thinking.

I was walking by myself down the street I live on in Geneseo one evening last week. It was the start of another night in Milne Library doing some "time in the trenches" with the final papers and projects for the semester. One's attitude may generally be a little less festive in this state of academic turmoil, but that was the first night the holiday feeling really hit me.

It was the lights on the houses and the calm of the streets which sent my mind adrift on the "Ghost of Christmas Past," if you will.

NOTABLE: I use the Christmas Story phrase because my brothers and I always watch the Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas. We love the Muppets and we're not afraid to admit it (even if we're all well into our 20's).

Back to my thought provoking walk down Second Street, I recalled times in the old white Toyota wagon driving through the neighborhoods back home and checking out the lights on all the houses. We were never big on the exterior lights at the Norman abode, but we were always captivated by other families' ambitions.

As for the calm of the streets, runs through Windsor (the hometown of my alma mater) with my two older brothers were often tradition. But in some act of cruel punishment to our bodies, we would only venture out after we stuffed our faces with delicious food at old friends' houses. Strange? Maybe. But, us Norman brothers have never claimed to be normal.

My proverbial walk down memory lane on the calm winter night last week sparked these festive memories and had me thinking about this year. Why does Jack (my oldest brother) always have to fly in from Florida at midnight to an airport an hour and a half away? That's the current question that looms on my mind as his December 23rd arrival in Syracuse stands prominent like a road race starting line. This race we can aptly name the Norman Holiday Adventure. And trust me, when some Norman brothers get together it is always an adventure.

The obligatory pick-up has my mood unfazed though because like any great race, no matter the start time this fact remains; "When the gun goes off everything changes. The world changes. And, nothing else really matters." - Patti Sue Plummer. From that point we'll begin an eleven day journey from one end of New York State to the other, spreading some Norman holiday cheer everywhere we go.

Although the reflective walk was great, I'm still a little aloof from the real joy that the holidays can bring. But thanks to my housemates and good friends, Kevin Skidmore and Pete Beuler, I find myself forced into it. They absolutely love Christmas and passion like that is infectious. After Thanksgiving the only music Kevin listens to is Christmas music. As long as I've known him (a little over 10 years) he has stayed true to this tradition. Pete does not hold back on the Christmas music either. I can't get away from it and I now begin to think, "Why would I want to?"

The two of them hung stockings on the fireplace in our living room and brought home a real Christmas tree which now adds a rather delightful scent to the house. As our house is one inhabited by eight men, this new fragrance is a welcome change.

So, what does all this mean for you? Well, here's the challenge I recently posed to myself and now am sharing with you.

HOLIDAY CHALLENGE: Get sucked into the holiday spirit.

We are often cautioned about this as it can lead to forgetting the true meaning of the holidays (which has its own personal significance to you with whatever religion or beliefs you may have). But, I think it can be a good thing. If you are like me in recent years, then you know that it's easy to get complacent and just breeze through this time of year without really taking it for what it's worth. Be happy and savor the moments. Before you know it, you'll be waking up in 2008.

I'm trying to keep the Christmas music on this year, rather then change the station like I usually do. Fortunately, my friends are a big help.

REFLECT: What are some of your holiday traditions and how have they changed? What are some of your favorite holiday memories? What family and friends are in those memories?

The answer to these questions should help you get sucked into the spirit. No matter what trials and tribulations you and yours may be going through, seek out those people that matter and share with them the joys of Christmas Past and the hopes of Christmas Future. And, of course, make the most of Christmas Present with them.

Smile bigger and laugh louder. It's going to be a great holiday if you let it be.

A holiday hopeful, ~JWN