We all practice a great deal of optimism in December, just because it is the darkest month.
For the young it is natural to be optimistic when Christmas, with its gifts, festivities and merriment, is shining ahead like the Promised Land. Even on ourselves, the old ones, Christmas does exercise a steady magnetism. “Three weeks today, we murmur to ourselves, or, “Only a fortnight left. I shall never get through it all.” We even find it in our hearts to admire those tiresome models of foresight and carefulness, the insufficiently occupied ones, who began in April to knit scarves for Christmas presents, but their cards in September and boast of having every gift packed up before November is out.
As for ourselves, we are plunged at the eleventh hour into a world of string, brown paper parcels and gaily coloured cards; also into a world of memories for we know that what we call in Cornwall “The Christmas” will carry us back through all the years to our earliest impressions and experiences.
There are childhood memories: waking very early in the dark in a state of tense excitement, with the single thought “Christmas has come at last” and crawling over one’s blankets to the foot of the bed and groping round the leg of the stocking and feeling in the toe something that must surely be a fat orange and then lying awake guessing about all the other treasures stuffed inside. A whole day of toys and sweets and brightly coloured objects with never, from the grown-ups, any “Don’ts” and never a “You’re not old enough for that” and never a reference to “Little Pitchers” while they were talking secrets. A whole day with no sharp answers like “Wait and see” or “Do as you’re told” and not even any warnings like “You’ll eat yourself sick.” The children’s own day, A day of surprises, with fruit and sweets everywhere and second helpings of all the best things. The the tree with glittering ornaments and candles and Father Christmas with a sack full of presents and so, in the end, to bed with the strange feeling of being tired out with happiness.
Then there are later memories of Christmas after careers and marriages have split families asunder and have separated friends, and when each anniversary brings reunions with sharpened memories of the absent ones. It would be a day for allowing full play to feelings habitually repressed, to gestures of kindness towards all one’s fellow-men. It would also be a day of warmth in remembering and being remembered by all who were loved best, not with a mere passing thought or two but with lingering pleasure, like the pleasure of slipping an old wine quietly, The cards and greetings, the toasts drunk, the gifts exchanged would be merely symbols of those feeling but the symbols would all help to strengthen a belief that it really is love that makes the world go round.
So we come to the old age Christmas and when the toast is called for absent friends we falter now for a moment, remembering that so many of our absents ones can never more return, Then we give ourselves up again to the business of rejoicing with the young and recalling all the love we have known throughout the years.
Yes, there is no doubt that Christmas day is the most important anniversary in the whole year; it is a day that has its influence on heathen and Christian people alike, transforming the Scrooges of this world, temporarily, into kind and generous men; promoting peace and goodwill, for this one day, in this troubled universe; increasing the friendliness of friends and burying the grudges of enemies, affording to children merriment that is unlimited and uncontrolled.
From ‘The Cornish Year’ by C C Vyvyan