A Simple Christmas

By Margaret H. Johnson

A good friend of mine, Michael Gillette, a renowned guitarist and teacher, gave me a great Christmas CD of traditional music with a delicious new flavour. Only two instruments play – a flute and acoustic guitar – that reinvigorate the classics with lively nuances and brilliant flurries.

An added feature to their vivacious touch makes this tribute to Christmas fresh: the songs are short. They are mindful the audience already knows the melodies. So, rather than keep repeating the refrains and verses they serve up tasty appetizers that bring back all of the joyful memories in exactly the right portions – just enough to bring a smile to your face.

This has set the tone for me this year. It tells me to abandon the pursuit of gifts that retain only a short jubilant flash of appreciation to be followed by a perfunctory trip to a back shelf, a drawer in a closet or a cabinet full of other shiny, lovely little things from previous Christmases.

Instead, I’m thinkin’ CD’s, DVD’s, tickets to live theatre, gift certificates for books (I loved The Rosie Project, Reconstructing Amelia and Unbreakable: The Ujjal Dosanjh Storyand the usual utilitarian things mothers buy for their children and spouse – you know, the stuff they never buy for themselves – and believe me, these are all used more than once…

Yes, this is the year to keep the gift giving simple. Make the gifts fun, not expensive or ostentatious. Make our gifts mean something. Let our gifts have lasting value.

I also like to personalize the message of Christmas in short notes about what the most important people in my life mean to me. This means so much more than mass produced cards with fortune- cookie-like greetings…You know, like, “Christmas is the best time of year, Full of family, friends and good cheer” … or “Merry Christmas Generic Husband”….

Sure, it takes a lot longer, but it is truly an act of love to reach down deep inside and translate our feelings into words and phrases – take them outside and write them down. And you know what? We see them too. There is something beautiful about the language of the heart becoming visible through prose and poetry.

Spending time instead of money is a much greater gift. When you think back to childhood, to the family gatherings do you remember the choo choo train or Barbie doll you got? No. We remember the people and the time we spent together. We can hear the laughter, feel the joy and remember the spirit of a special time of the year.

I can’t even remember what I got for Christmas two years ago, but I have this internal panoramic camera that loads up hundreds of images all at once, almost like one continuous picture of faces and smiles from the time we shared, and the happiness we experienced with our families, when I think of Christmas.

These are the gifts we can give to everyone – our families and best friends. We don’t have to fill up a wheel barrel of gift-wrapped stuff and dump it into the open space beneath the Christmas tree – symbols of our commercialized culture that are destined to be soon forgotten.

Wishing you a merry, simple Christmas.

Sincerely, Margaret H. Johnson

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