Imagine the dining table at Christmas Eve. It's already late, but you can see through the window hundreds of lights, lanterns or neon signs. It's probably snowing, slowly but steadily, and you can't help but feel good from the thought that you won't have to go out today anymore. In the corner of the room there is a Christmas tree lit by a garland of green, blue and red lights, and underneath it – presents, lots of them. But you can't touch them just yet, hold on still and better look at the dining table.
Take a moment and enjoy the sight of it, how everything has come together so perfect. Handkerchiefs and tablecloth, white as snow, candles, shiny plates and tableware, elegant glasses, a huge plate with a turkey on it, and everything that goes along – let your imagination complete this list. You notice several additional chairs that remind you of guests, check the clock, make sure you have some minutes left before they arrive. The chandelier gives off soft, comfortable light. You feel tired after all you've been through today, but not sleepy just yet. You sniff the air: there so many smells in the air, turkey, cookies, cinnamon, oranges, the tree, God knows what else and it all can be combined into one word: Christmas.
Are you already missing Christmas? Oh, the time of joy and peace when all your dearest gather around to share this special time together. The time of exhausting haste when you're trying to complete the shopping list along with buying all the gifts in the last possible minute. Or trying to decorate the living room before arrival of guests, prepare all the meals in time, make the table; all this crazy mess can sometimes drive you nuts. But when it's finally over and you find yourself surrounded by the ones you love, do you remember that feeling of relief and happiness? Which means “It's over. I can finally enjoy my Christmas”. In this very moment all the queues, all the traffic jams, all irritation and weariness you've been feeling throughout the last days – it is all worth it.
It's strange how Christmas transformed throughout the centuries. It started out as purely religious holiday – or holy day, as we could say, indigenous Christian celebration. Things changed; it became a tradition that carries on its own, all over the world, through generations that do not have to be religious anymore. Its Christian background faded nowadays, for better or worse, and what's left is a sacred time, when we leave our ambitions, anger, ignorance behind and devote ourselves to love and care – at least to those who we cherish the most. It that sense, the idea of Christianity lives on in our Christmas: love is the most beautiful and precious thing and that shall be the day when we share it.
Since the beginning of history people that gathered together tell each other stories, and there is huge amount of tales about Christmas. They can be scary, they can heartwarming, they can be truly breathtaking. It's strange, but many of us probably filled Christmas with our own meanings and sense. Do you keep telling your children the tale about Santa Claus, who is about to bring the gifts? Or maybe in your family you have your own myths and legends about Christmas, or, more likely, stories about your ancestors and their connection with this celebration day?
Do you miss how the people are at that time? Everybody rushes to complete all he had to do before celebration, shops and streets are crowded, but for once in a year all people become one big family as they share the same event all together. Think of this: one ancient tradition unites the people around you, in your town, in your country, people all over the world as Christmas became our common value.
Did you take part in school play dedicated to this time of year? Magi were always the most impressive characters to play. Did the teachers make you and your classmates sing “Jingle Bells” or “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”? If the school had a radio there was no hiding from these songs and to be completely honest, their mood was quite contagious. Of course, we never confessed it to anyone. Do you remembers small gifts from your friends? These were truly special, considering we never had enough pocket money for anything serious.
Do you miss the streets dressing at this time of year? When for one month in a year garlands turn the town into dwelling of fireflies and neon lights' reflection is visible on the snow. You know, one could say that lighting is one the most important elements of decoration, creating this atmosphere of Christmas. Shouldn't be too strong of course, must be comfy, neat, calm. Are you planning to entangle your home with those matted garlands? They are probably still in the pantry since the last year. Do you have enough candles and candlesticks for them? Ask anyone, there is no Christmas without candles, that's a detail we've been keeping since the very beginning.
When do you usually start decorating your house? Some people fully devote themselves to it, they pin paper stars and snowflakes to curtains, put the tinsel on the chandelier, and then, you know, all this silly but cute things hang all over the house sometimes for several months. Some completely omit any decoration, so that you won't be able to tell by the look of their house, if it's Christmas or not. Probably the right way, if there is one, lies somewhere in between. Did you have as a kid a non-artificial Christmas tree at home? Yes, eventually it loses all the needles and it's a mess, but its smell for many defines the Christmas along with the scent of tangerines. Do you have a garden? There is belief that garden figurines participate in Christmas no less than human beings and therefore they also need to be supplied with a garland and cup of punch. Also don't forget to leave some carrots for Santa's reindeer. Do you have a figure of angel? Christian you are or not, he is an all-time participant.
What's for dinner in your house? Is it turkey with cranberry sauce? One could've guessed. Make sure nobody lost your kitchen thermometer during the year, every housewife knows how hard it is to be patient, checking poor bird in oven every ten minutes. Are mince pies still a tradition in your family? What about English plum-pudding? It's surely a long story, but if you take a time to cook it, you become a part of something bigger, a part old English cooking tradition as well as connect tightly with whole Christmas phenomenon.
Do you plan to buy something new for this year's setting? Everybody seems to be cleaning the whole house before Christmas (some even move furniture to new places in the room) and there is surely a tradition in some countries to throw away all the old and useless stuff. It has a point though: we all want our life to taste fresh. Maybe it's time to buy something new for your house too: a candle holder or a vase, maybe something funny like an odd sculpture. What are you actually planning to treat yourself with? No kidding, you deserve a present from yourself too, something nice and beautiful.
By all means gifts are an irreplaceable part of any Christmas. It's no secret that the best thing about gifts is not receiving them but making them, which is actually a part of one big truth that we all know but keep forgetting: love is all, and by giving away it is actually you who receives the most. And Christmas is still here to remind us about it, and because of it we should probably never let go of this day, whatever it means to humanity. For it is the day when family bonds are stronger than ever, when we set aside our differences, prejudices and share the same table together. You can feel this bond right now just by looking at one of the gifts you've received. Maybe you still have one or two sweaters your grandma knitted for you as a present. Maybe it's a totally useless but cute and memorable drawing or some kind application from your younger sister. These little things are there to remind you that you are not alone in this world and in the darkest times you have your family to lean on.
Do you always remember to call your friends and colleagues from another town? Even if you don't see much of each other throughout the year, this very date reminds you that you are allies, brothers, partners in usually not-so-friendly world. What's more important, do you always remember to wish your grandparents Merry Christmas? There is no need to tell you, how much do they need your attention and kindness, so do not linger to express your love to them. What do you usually send them as a gift? It's not so obvious, high-tech gadgets are usually not their cup of tea, and yes, they already have a set of cookware.
Sometimes gifts are a real challenge: what is it going to be this year? At times you are just completely out of ideas, and moreover completely out of energy and time to seek for one and forced to be content with something that fits but not quite. You can be sure, it's a struggle that everyone has been through. Remember: attention and your attitude is what matters the most to the person you want to congratulate.
Our top Picks for Christmas GIft and Decorations
Do you remember what actually happens at the table? Usually, it's nothing special really, just some latest news, funny stories, the tinkling of wine glasses, “could you pass me this?”, toasts and laughter. Maybe you even sing Christmas carols, a bit stupid but so lighthearted. So what is the secret, what makes this time special? Simple things are the best, as they say, and Christmas is a bunch of small little things. To honor an old tradition, to make your house look beautiful, to decorate the room, to choose the gifts, to set the table, to cook all the delicious things, to call the ones you love, to gather them all together, to talk and laugh, to be together as a family: this is how it actually works.
One of the best things about Christmas is actually its morning – of course, only if you don't have to go to work. You wake up late, someone's in the kitchen probably brewing the coffee. Sun is in the room. Children are opening their presents and you hear exclamation of excitement from the Christmas tree. You walk into the kitchen and, oh dear, there is plenty of food left in the fridge. Even some turkey with sauce, oh, sometimes it's better when it's cold. You close your eyes and realize that today, after all the fuss you've through yesterday, you actually has a right to do absolutely nothing, just to be lazy couch potato and watch some classic Christmas movies. Which one is your favorite? “Home Alone”? “Love Actually”? Probably it's not “Die Hard”, is it?
Do you miss the Christmas now? Did those words echo in you with reminiscences of your childhood, of your relatives, of your best gifts? Did you recall that snowstorm that was outside when you were ten years old? Do you remember any good ghost stories to tell while sitting by the chimney? Did you ever try to tell yourself, what exactly does it all mean for you? Of all human holidays, this one we shall never let go, for once it's gone it will be strike against all what makes us humans. Merry Christmas to you and everyone you know – and although it is not quite there, you can feel it coming.