My first Christmas in New York had been snowless. In fact, this is the first time in more than a hundred years (1891 was the last time!) that snow was a no-show at Central Park on Christmas day. But then, who was dreaming of a white Christmas? Not I! I loved that the so-far mild winter and that on the weekend before Christmas we could go around Manhattan to finish our last minute shopping in just sweaters was too good to be true!
And so it came and it went - like I have emailed Hannahlou, at first I thought it would be much drama of homesickness and all that but there was none of it. I actually enjoyed my very peaceful and quiet Christmas away from home. No monsterous Manila traffic to contend with, fighting for parking space at the malls or battling the long line at the grocery for Noche Buena shopping was not missed at all. The shopping in Manhattan was pretty easy with so many stores around the city none really had long waits for the cashiers to fret about.
On the weekend before Christmas, we celebrated the holidays with friends and their kids. On one dinner with another set of friends, their 5-year old daughter Rachel sat with me in their living room and interviewed me about Christmas trees and Santa Claus. You see, she's never had neither because her faith did not align her with that kind of a celebration or holiday. I told her about decorating Christmas trees and how Santa would put small gifts inside stockings.
"Is Santa Claus Catholic?" she asked, her bright dark eyes peering at me behind dark brown curls.
I glanced at the mom who flashed me a "Gee, I'm glad you're here" smile while she pretended to finish her kitchen chore.
"Well, he's not. He is a very nice, generous old man who loves children so when kids write him letters asking him for presents then if they are good, he shows up and brings them toys. Sometimes exactly what they want, sometimes if it's not in his workshop with the elves, he brings other stuff." I replied.
"He doesn't give me anything." she pouted, "even if I am really good all year."
At this point of course, my heart was breaking. "Well, did you write him a note?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Maybe you should. He probably thought you didn't want anything special. Lots of kids write so for those who don't, Santa thinks you don't want anything."
She smiled back at me as her face lit up, "Will you help me write him a note next year?"
I looked at the mom who winked back at me, "Of course, I will but I think your mom knows where to write him, too." And with that she rushed to her mother to confirm with her about writing a note to the jolly old fellow next year for her gifts.
After Rachel was tucked in bed, we sat in the huge living room of the luxury apartment with a view of the west side of Central Park. While they shared stories about feeling deprieved of having a fresh tree decorated with tinsel and balls or stars and coming back to school after the holidays without a Santa Claus story, we all agreed that religion should have nothing to do with celebrating the holidays with kids.
And so Rachel's mom decided that definitely they would have a fresh tree next year (10-foot high, she insists), decorated in blue and white and with a lot of snowflake or star decorations, filled with tinsel and blinking colorful lights. And Rachel's dad wanted a choo-choo train running around on a track under the tree, something he had always wanted to have since he was a boy. And yep, Rachel would be writing Santa a letter and they would fill her stockings with gifts for the eight mornings of Hanukkah. And then we all laughed, understanding that the holiday can have a different interpretation for everyone.
I am probably the most pro-Christmas person I know. Even back home, coming up with the general theme of decorating the house, the decorations, the Noche Buena menu and the whole shebang was masterminded by none other. It was my most favorite time of the year and even here in New York, my friends say that I am highly contagious. I have gifts for everyone, even just small tokens, Christmas cards are mailed out really early and those that I have received I had set up on my window as decoration. At work, Wally and I had put up the tree that welcomes all visitors to the office and Christmas tunes are played from my computer for two weeks. That and of course, that I organize the office party every year.
Snow or without snow, Christmas in New York has been very beautiful and without the stress, definitely holy. Although I completely miss being with my favorite niece, Gabrielle and my favorite nephew, Liam while they tore through their Christmas gifts, I think for a while I had Rachel who gives the sweetest 'auntie' hug, Sarah and Josh who taught me about how the subway was dug (their version) and where snow comes from, also their version (THAT is totally another blog entry!!!).
This is the season for everyone but mostly, I think it is a special time for children. It is a time for them to feel love, to believe in Santa Clauses who have no religious affiliations and for just believing that in this world there is magic - whether in trees with tinsel or in gift-laden stockings. There is already too much cynicism in the world, magic should touch them at least once in their lives. For when else can they enjoy and believe such things?
Happy holidays to you all and a peaceful New Year's....