“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be,
― Eric Sevareid
My husband and I are just back from a European river cruise tailored to show us the best of the local Christmas markets of the region. These open air markets spring up each November and December, offering items related primarily to the Christmas season. Here you find ornaments, nativity sets, holiday home decorations, and seasonal foods. This is not so much a place to buy gifts for everyone on your list as the place to prepare home and table for Christmas. The air is filled with music and delicious scents. Glühwein (hot mulled wine in souvenir mugs), lebkuchen (gingerbread) and wurst (sausages) of varied sizes are readily available “to go.”
All together it is a wonderful experience (except for the lack of places to sit down and rest while taking it all in). The weather can be challenging but cloudy skies and temperatures in the forties are bearable and keep you moving along. Stone benches (when you do find them) are cold and stay cold no matter how long you sit on them!
Because we were on this cruise and have other travels planned in the coming week, we have had almost none of our usual Christmas preparation. We have a wreath on the garage door and cards are sent, but that’s about it for our traditional practices. I have adopted a new spiritual practice for Advent, but it is not the same as weekly services. So we two have had a different approach to Christmas this year. Not better or worse, but definitely different.
How do we retain the essential parts of Christmas when the trappings and works of the day are so different from the usual? Sorting out what is essential is the challenge before us. That, of course, is the life challenge for every day, too, but as with so many things, it all seems more important at Christmas time. In some ways having the question before us freshens the season too. How DO we keep the essentials alive at any time, with or without holiday trappings?
My wish for you this Christmas is that you can sort out the essentials from the trappings in this season and every day. I wish you an open heart, ready to meet the world as it is, with hope for what it could be. I wish you peace.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
19 December 2013