December is a magical month often filled with lots of memories from our childhood. A feeling adults should hang onto, writes Charlotte de Vreeze-Nauta.
When I was nine, my teacher asked the class why December was called the ‘festive month’. I blurted out that it was because of my birthday.
The class laughed at me, but I didn’t care. I knew, of course, that December for most people was about Saint Nicolas, Christmas and New Year’s Eve but my birthday greatly added to the festivities for me, so it was a quadruple whammy.
Festive is one thing we can say about December, but for me, the word magic comes up as well. I don’t know whether I am just a big kid or whether I have managed to hold on to those magical feelings that many children seem to possess, but most adults seem to lose at some point.
I am not a religious person. I was raised a protestant, but I have long ago decided that religion is not for me, and I have never been able to believe in God. I have tried, but it never caught on. Also, I am rather grounded and not at all superstitious; I know that there is no such thing as miracles.
But come December (and actually, the bug already hits way before that), I feel an energy, a certain joy, if you will, and a small part of me believes that something extraordinary is about to happen.
I guess a part of that is related to Saint Nicolas. Many people use and abuse Saint Nicolas, (or Santa Claus) when it comes to raising their children. My parents surely did. ‘If you don’t clean up your room right now, Saint Nicolas will be very upset’. Or: ‘If you don’t stop misbehaving right now, Saint Nicolas’ helpers will take you back home to Spain with him’.
As a child, I believed all of that. It made us fearful of this mythical figure and as my parents arranged for a visit from Saint Nicolas on a couple of occasions, he became a little more than just mythical. To me he was real, and so were my parents’ warnings. So of course, I tidied my room and tried to behave.
It’s fair to say that it is a rather mean and even weak parenting tool. Mean because you raise your kids in fear; and weak because you can only abuse this for a maximum of two months leading up to December. The rest of the year you must do it on your own terms. You can’t use the easter bunny or the tooth fairy to the same effect. But however nasty this part to Saint Nicolas was, it was far outweighed by the joy of Saint Nicolas, the presents and the excitement.
My parents would ask our neighbours to put our presents at the front door, bang on it loudly and run off. We would be nailed to the ground, in part out of fear, in part out of excitement for our presents and in part out of the anticipation of this miracle: how did Saint Nicolas do it? Was he really able to drop off presents to all children in one single night?
It was magical; even though gullible little me would, at times, be overwhelmed with fear that I might be shipped off to Spain and never see my parents again.
To this day, when I see Saint Nicolas and his helpers anywhere, I immediately feel small, full of awe and a little fear even. I can’t help it. But it also brings about a bit of the old excitement and feelings of magic of that somewhat fearful, yet thrilling celebration.
Then there’s Christmas. I grew up in a loving family and I have fond memories of my youth. But I also grew up in a house where there was a lot of bickering. My parents, thankfully, are still together but that wasn’t always a given. There were some pretty rough patches, so it wasn’t always easy.
But Christmas was a time of peace and joy in our home. Everyone would just try a little harder to make it a pleasant and happy time. And that feeling is stuck deep within me. You know, ‘things may be nasty, but Christmas will make all bad things go away’. It is a foolish idea, a false sentiment even but it is engraved in me.
Even if we haven’t always had the best Christmases in recent years due to sickness or even death, this deep-rooted feeling of hope and joy always comes back the next year when Christmas is drawing nearer. And I am grateful for it.
I even nurture and strengthen that feeling by playing Christmas music as soon as I find it acceptable to do so, which is a little early for most people: the end of October. I spread out Christmas shopping to enjoy it longer. I decorate the house the minute Saint Nicolas is on his way back to Spain, and one of my favourite moments of the year is to put on Christmas carols, make myself a hot chocolate and get creative with gift wrapping.
All that allows for my Christmas joy to be present for at least six weeks and me being wrapped in a feeling of magical expectancy. It’s almost like being pregnant for the first time, albeit without the morning sickness and water retention.
And then, as a final apotheosis of the festive month, there’s New Year’s Eve. The pinnacle of celebrations, the mother of all parties, the grand finale of the year and, more importantly, the start of a New Year full of possibilities. I get excited even writing about it now.
It is the epitome of magic as I am a strong believer that we are only partly responsible for our opportunities. I think luck plays a big role in everything we do. And energy. Have you noticed how new experiences and exciting new endeavours not only come to fruition as a result of one’s own hard work or talent, but also because the minute you put a certain idea in the ether someone always comes along with the right tip, or a vital contact. It’s the universe at work. And everything just falls into place. It’s almost like there is a powerful energy or godly presence, after all.
Maybe that’s what December is all about: realizing that there is more between heaven and earth, and that we have to cherish that.
Merry Christmas and a magical New Year.