Christmas morning in my house as a child began with stockings filled with small gifts (and an orange in the toe). We would open them upstairs so as to delay that wonderful moment of first seeing presents under the tree. Then my sister and I would wait - in some years more patiently than others - at the top of the stairs while the adults made coffee, turned on Christmas music, and warmed up the coffee cake (at a sloth-like pace!).
You will not be surprised to learn that our boys now wait, breathless, on the top stair while we prepare for Christmas morning. “What is taking you so long, mom?!” is a yearly refrain, usually followed by a request for patience and a reminder that the waiting is in some ways the very best part. The anticipation and imagining. That tingling feeling that runs from head to toe and that has been building since the very first Advent candle lighting and Advent calendar opening. Watchful waiting.
As adults we know all too well that sustaining the holiday spirit we felt as children is near impossible. I, for one, dread the time it takes to update address labels (for example), and I worry that my own children are quickly transitioning away from BIG presents around the tree - Sled! Nok hockey! Drumset! - to requests for Xbox games and gift cards. It has become harder to see family, and more years have gone by since we have lost parents and grandparents. The reality of the holiday season for many is less joy and more worry, less anticipation and more planning.
And yet! The December holiday traditions ask us to seek moments of renewal, light, spirit, and hope. I think we need to remind, and expect more of, ourselves when it comes to Christmastime. Let’s deliberately weave in time to pause, look, and listen. Let’s remember what made these days magical as children (it wasn’t just the gifts under the tree). And let’s wrap around the family and friends in our lives who help us piece together how we felt sitting at the top of the staircase, brimming with the excitement that comes with wondering what might come next.
During this holiday season, I wish you moments of watchful waiting.
May this be a time of joy and imagining for you and yours!
Rachel E. Stone
Head of School