I remember as a kid being outside in the winter bundled up in a snowsuit with a scarf wrapped around my neck and face, and there was a smell that brought with it a warm feeling of the season.

Maybe it was the fresh Minnesota winter air combined with evergreen trees and a touch of the laundry detergent my mom used. Whatever it was it would make me feel enthusiastic about the things that made winter magical. I recall that feeling of excitement, especially when the holidays were here.

We would get to go to my grandma’s house and see all of our cousins. There is not much better when you are a kid than getting to visit with relatives that you do not get to see on a regular basis.

Before venturing off to our traditional family adventures on Christmas Eve, we would get to open one gift, which was always an outfit to wear for the festivities. My sisters and I sometimes received matching outfits to our delight. My family would drop off cookies while singing Christmas carols, adding in new ones that we learned in choir.

We would fill or tummies and our hearts with so many joys of the season. Our last stop before nestling into bed was Christmas Eve late mass.

We have been fortunate to live close to relatives so we could easily be a part of holiday gatherings. As our families expanded as adults, we have been blessed to attend as many as seven celebrations. We would go from one gathering to the next making lasting memories. Our holidays have always been full of people and joy and laughter and fun.

Walking outside this Christmas Eve in below zero temperatures, I was bundled tight and my scarf hit my face and there was that old familiar smell bringing back memories of Christmas past and making me feel nostalgic.

This Christmas is different. I do not have to tell everyone that. We have all been living it. We all know this entire year has been different.

With many gatherings this year canceled, we are missing those people we have not had the opportunity to share times with. Yet, we are so thankful they are still there, even if we are not able to hug them right now. Every day I am thankful for blessings and the presence of those we love.

Looking around at the communities in the region, so many have found a way to incorporate the wonder of the season and provide light during the darkest days of winter.

Businesses – even though going through their own tough times – are donating meals to those who are hungry. People are giving presents to those who cannot afford any. Even those who are struggling are finding ways to share holiday spirit with those who may be low on it this year.

I think about the true meaning of Christmas. I think about the warmth around us even on a cold Minnesota night. There truly is something special about this time of the year. Driving around looking at holiday lights with Christmas music playing with a cup of hot cocoa is one way to help you feel it.

It is not always easy to shake the grinchy feeling. I admit, I had a bit of the Grinch in me until I lifted my daughter out of her highchair, and she hugged me for so long and so tight.

She must have known I needed a reminder of the gifts that matter – the ones that are not seen but felt – in the eyes of a child, in the kindness of strangers, in the faith that you feel, and the hope that you believe in.

I saw a sign with the words: May you never be too old to believe in the magic of Christmas.

I cannot even begin to understand what everyone is experiencing this holiday season and the way it is taking a toll.

What I do know is there is good and there is light and there are people trying to make the days brighter.

There is still magic in the season, even if it seems harder to feel this year. That is what cannot be canceled.

*Melissa can be reached at MelissaCox2009@yahoo.com.

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