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December 21, 2011

Letter: The enduring lessons of Christmas ornaments

The enduring lessons of Christmas ornaments

To the editor:

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I decided to go up the attic to get take down those old ornaments and decorations that have sparked so much joy in my family's life. I believe they have a magical, redeeming quality , sort of like Christmas lights that are kept up all year by famiies who hold a heartfelt vigil for heroic family members in uniform overseas.

I always marvel at the ancient, timeless, multi-generational treasures, many dating from my earliest childhood and with some of the "newest" introduced a decade or two ago during our child-rearing years.

We own candles that have never felt flames, angels that have never seen flight and Santa Clauses that exceed current politically correct standards of fat and jolly. Music boxes have chimed the same music for ages, and mysteriously some begin playing without winding them as if they were relieved to be liberated for a few, glorious weeks again. Perhaps it's just the air of the season and anxious anticipation of the festivities to come that animates them.

We have a faded Rudolf made of wood whose nose still burns bright red and a half moon with a Santa profile made of papier-mache. We have "ornaments" made by the children with elbow macaroni spray painted in gold. It is astonishing to me that we will enable our grandchildren someday to hold delicate, glass, colored globes with tin hooks that we first held as children. How these have survived are a deep mystery to me. We've used the original faded and stained boxes for most, and for most others, holiday kitchen cloths and towels that have never felt moisture provided the protection to transcend the decades without incident.

There is a particularly, mysterious quality to the objects that have eyes that initially connects me to my childhood which took me a while to fully understand. My imagination seems to play tricks on me as the eyes of the angels, the Santa Clauses, figurines of the Nativity and the reindeer are slightly moving, living and actually looking at me. But before I need to see a therapist or be blamed for partaking early in a bit of eggnog cheer, I've come to realize that my experience is borne from the rituals of the season and the recesses of my childhood.

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