I like Christmas. The gingko trees of downtown Athens are arrayed with lights, and there is a parade through town where High School bands, wonderfully out of tune, play yuletide songs and various community minded folks participate or attend. The university takes a break for the holiday, and the students, for the most part, leave town. And so, despite the festive season, Athens becomes a quieter place with a pared down population. You can see who really lives there. Restaurants and bars downtown have their parties and the natives and regulars all attend getting free food and booze. As the students leave, others return. People who have left and gone off to other places, and there’s a good chance that at one of the bars you’lll run into someone that you have connected with in years (at least before there was Facebook). I believe in Christmas and the magic that attends it.
However, there was a time when I hated Christmas. As the town emptied out and a quieter time settled in I was left with my life as it was. It was still, cold and dark. I was typically alone on Christmas Eve. I always made sure I worked that night and often the next day. I’d spend as much time as I could working so I could forget that it was winter outside, that it was a holiday season. I’d work until it was over and things were back to normal-if I wasn’t working I made sure I was drinking or sleeping, no idle hours where I could think about things too much. No matter what I did, though, the one unavoidable session of silent night solitude came on Christmas Eve. Inevitably, I would be in my house alone, drinking and watching bad cable television until I was tired enough to go to sleep.
But one year, things were different. One year, everything changed. I worked Christmas Eve, as usual and got off work at eleven. That year a friend of mine, Andy, was working with me. Something was up at home for Andy, I never found out what it was, but he didn’t want to go home after work. Instead, we went out. Even in Athens, there were a few places that were still open that served alcohol. Or so we thought. Everywhere we went, we just missed it. Restaurants were closed, bars weren’t serving. Everyone was-sensibly-shutting it down early. For once, I had nothing stocked at home either. So as the night progressed, it appeared as though we would not face the oncoming hours of Christmas Eve with at leas the numbing warmth of a good buzz wrapped around our heads.
The whole time, initially as a joke, I said: “Don’t worry, And, I’m sure the magic of Christmas will come through!” A refrain that mocked all the specials we saw as children. We’d get to a bar or restaurant that had just closed: “Don’t worry And, the magic of Christmas will help us!” I said it over and over.
Now, the thing is, I’ve got an interest in metaphysical things. I practice and have taught meditation. I’ve witnessed transubstantiation, I’ve heard khutbahs in masjids, I’ve walked the paths of the Tree of Life, I’ve gone on shamanic journeys. I’ve seen and experienced things that are, quite frankly, hard to believe or explain. Despite what some may think, you can tell when a ritual is working, you can feel it when an invocation is properly conducted. There are lots of metaphors for it, a current one could be that the power of a higher reality is downloaded into our own and changes it.
Even taking into account my beliefs, unorthodox as they are in the norms of today, did I ever believe in things as banal sounding as “The Magic of Christmas”? Of course not, it’s beneath my intellect. The Magic of Christmas is something you see on bad holiday specials on network television. It’s saccharine crapola dispensed to children inbetween commercials for toys you don’t need. Yet, for all that, here it was, I was saying the mantic holiday invocation, “The Magic of Christmas”, over and over like some mad tinsel clad litany. Initially, it was an ironic joke on my part, but the more I said it, the less funny it sounded.
Andy and I returned home to my abode, 760 Boulevard, unsucessful in our bid to find something to make the evening more bearably anaesthetized.
“I guess you were wrong about the Magic of Christmas, Pete.” Andy said. I didn’t make a ready response. Just then, we heard a car pull up outside. That was odd. My room-mate and best friend, Jason, was gone for the holidays. Car doors opened and slammed shut. Voices-two men whom I didn’t recognize made their way to the front door. They asked for Josh, who was Jason’s brother (he was crashing on our couch at the time) and had gone with Jason to where it was they went on Christmas Eve.
“You mind if we hang out? We’ve been driving for a long time.” one of them asked.
“Sure, come on in.” I responded. They clambered in with a case of beer and a bottle of gin and more besides. In no time, we were drinking, watching Star Wars on an old Laserdisc player, smoking glorious blue Afghan double creeper mookie-mookie, making jokes and telling stories.
“See, Andy,” I said at one point, my voice slurred, “the Magic of Christmas came through. Haha. The Magic of Christmas came through.”
The two men eventually returned to the night from which they came. I can’t remember their names. I never saw them again. Magic is like that sometimes.Read More