Winter is here. It’s nine in the evening, and I’m comfortably writing, clothed in my flannel pajamas and warm socks. No fire tonight—I live in California after all. The low tonight won’t dip below forty degrees. Cool enough for to remind me of winter, but not too cold.
The end of the year is approaching, and with it, the desire to look back on the year that’s passed. Of course, this year has been anything but kind.
Every morning brings another unwelcome appointment from the Trump administration. Disaster feels upon us. For me personally, the year has been trying in different ways. Our move West hasn’t gone exactly as planned, leaving us lonely, and worn. I would give anything to remember the optimism that swept me into this year.
Optimism, that’s what this time of year is about—right? Holidays. Time with family. The promise of a new year. Hope for better.
That optimism is easy to forget. Malls blasting the same holiday music over and over, and the abundance of cinnamon scent. Does everything have to peppermint flavored?
Then yesterday, after we finished decorating the tree, I was reminded. It was during a refrain in We Three Kings.
As a child, we sang it every year. Like many Christmas hymns, I know the words by heart. I think it was Father Edmund’s favorite. I can perfectly remember him strolling down the aisle—no hymnal in hand—belting the lyrics as the mass started.
There was the optimism. It was the joy in his face. Unbridled, enthusiastic like a child’s.
Whenever I hear certain Christmas hymns, I remember Father Edmund and it makes me smile. I love Christmas music. People would always sing louder because they knew the words.
My parents divorced when I was young, and as a teenager I lived with my Dad. When it was my mom’s turn for Christmas, we would attend a church on Christmas Eve that had a special music service. My brother and sister usually didn’t go. My mother and I both love music, so it was our thing.
My step-mother and father are Catholic, but my mother’s church used to meet in a high school auditorium. They didn’t usually have a service on Christmas. Instead we went to this particular church for their music.
It was a small Methodist church, in downtown Raleigh. We didn’t know anyone. We just wanted to sing hymns and listen to the organ and choir.
My childhood wasn’t particularly fun. Holidays were always split between families. It made it hard to have your usual holiday traditions, when each year was different. So, it was the little things for me. Like Father Edmund singing We Three Kings, and the Christmas eve service I attended with my mom.
Music was my tradition.
Silent Night. Come all ye Faithful. O Holy Night. When I would sing these songs, things felt hopeful. Music gave me optimism that the new year would bring better tidings, just like the words told me.
It was that same music which brought me hope again this year. I took notice of my boys decorating the tree. I watched as they recounted tales for each ornament. And my heart ached as they placed certain homemade trimmings, which were created by smaller, younger versions of themselves. I was reminded that I was fortunate, and blessed.
In that brief moment, I forgot about the loved ones lost this year, the stupid election, and even those assholes who broke into my car and stole my bag earlier this week. The uncertainty, upheaval, and frustration of the year melted away. I felt joy.
That is the magic of winter. Despite all that has happened, I can still be hopeful for the next year. I need only remember to look in the right places.
“O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.”
However you celebrate this winter, be it religious or not, I hope you can share it with friends and family. And remind yourself, to find joy.