‘We need a little Christmas’

Gray Hughes

I took a stroll down Main Street in Hill City on a recent cloudy, snowy morning, and I saw the first signs of Christmas start to pop up in town. The Alpine Inn was starting to decorate its porch with garland and the Black Hills Institute had a Christmas tree up in its window.

In years past, this would have bothered me. “Don’t you know there’s a holiday between Halloween and Christmas?” I would have said, probably accompanied with something like “bah humbug.” In fact, last year in this very paper I wrote a column decrying what I described as the “Christmas Creep” — the phenomenon where we start to celebrate Christmas earlier and earlier every year.

But here’s the thing: I wrote that column before the most trying year our nation has had in a very long time. I wrote that column before we knew about COVID-19, the associated economic downturn because of the virus and before a contentious election that emotionally taxed everyone. So, this year, as the song goes: “We need a little Christmas.”

Yes, dear reader, we need a little Christmas. Christmas — for the vast majority of Americans, I’d reckon — is one of the best times of the year. I know for most school children it’s by far the best part of the year.

And I’m not going to complain one bit that we’re celebrating it early this year. No, in fact I’m joining right along with those who are breaking out the decorations and playing their Christmas music. It might be a couple of weeks before I put the ol’ wreath on the door of my office, but in my office I’ve been listening to Christmas music for a couple of weeks now.

And I’m not ashamed of it, either. I need some merriness and cheer right now, and, for some reason, the lyrical stylings of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and other crooners who are listened to during the Christmas season seem to bring just that. (None of the modern stuff for me, though. Nothing will get me to turn off the radio faster than hearing Mariah Carey sing, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”)

See, last year when I decried the “Christmas creep,” things were normal — or as normal as they could be. Now, no matter how you look at it, things are not normal, and for many people across the nation people won’t be able to enjoy some of their favorite Christmas traditions.

This time of year really means a lot to me. Some of my fondest memories as a child were formed during the Christmas time. Whether it was getting my Christmas tree with my mom, watching the Christmas lights show at the old Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia with my dad or watching the Flyers Christmas light show before a game with my friends, this time of year really brings back some good feelings, and these memories are among the fondest I have in my life. Sadly, for me those days are in the past, and for those who are young enough to experience things like that they might not be able to do so due to shutdowns and cancelations.

The Christmas season really is a magical season. Under normal circumstances, though, I don’t feel like a lot of us would appreciate this time of year. We’re always in a hurry — trying to find the right present for the right someone, flying from Christmas party to Christmas party, not caring about what this day really means.

The times we’re currently in lend themselves to make us think about what’s really important. While, yes, presents and things like that are fun, that’s really not the main point of this time of year and the celebration, is it? There’s the Biblical meaning of this time of year, and then there’s the more communal meaning — celebrating with one another.

While I know many people who won’t be able to be with their families on Christmas due to shutdowns and travel restrictions, it brings to mind what matters the most, and that is those people who matter.

So, this year, embrace the fact that some of us might be celebrating Christmas a little earlier than normal. In a year of so much uncertainty, the comfort the Christmas season brings is really something that many of us need to hold onto to help us make it through.

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