Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Me and my cousin have always had a special bond. We look at each other and smile, our eyes filled with joy, whenever we mention that the Christmas holidays are coming up…
It is not just the cosy decorations, the bright yet warm colors that fill the streets. It is not the glamour of windows calling us into the shops they represent, promising to make both us—the gift makers—and our beloved—the gift receivers—very happy.
There is some magic around Christmas which can’t be explained by the idea of giving and receiving presents alone, nor by the appeal of German Christmas markets, or the beauty of ice rings.
Religion certainly plays a part: it does not only circumscribe the grandeur of the festivity to Christian countries, but it also represents the deep meaning that this holy time is all about. And, perhaps, the magic starts here: with this tradition.
Indeed, each tradition we keep carrying over through generations and centuries has a deep inner meaning for us. Its value is inestimable, in that it is able to lift our minds and spirits year after year. Even just for a few days, we forget about all our troubles, and we just try to be happy with the people we love. Our family, our friends.
This is why this holiday is so special—or, at least, this is why it is so special to me. It is one of the very rare moments, if not the only moment, one can spend real quality time with the people one loves: not separately, but all together.
I admire cultures and people who are able to enjoy such a time more often. Unfortunately, for me and my closest relations, I realize how difficult it becomes, year after year, to find moments to actually be together and simply enjoy each other’s company. Birthdays used to be the occasion: as one grows older, however, these go out of fashion—even though newborn babies always renew the opportunity—and it just becomes harder to be all at once in the same city, in the same place, and in the same house.
Modern life moves at such a pace, and is filled with such complexity, that good quality time seems to be a thing of the past, a custom long forgotten. It is vital though, that we fill our days with some of these magic, heart-filling moments, and with the people we love—else we would not be able to sustain such a rhythm of life. We know this, yet somehow we do not practice it well enough, or prioritize it in our search for a happy life.
The very idea of idleness is a concept not yet fully grasped—or even completely rejected—by the western world. In ancient times, and in many modern cultures today (in the Middle and Far East mainly), idleness was one of the main factors that decided a person’s standard of living. We may not realize this, but part of the charm and value of Christmas (just like summer holidays), lies in this very concept. Just being in the presence of the people we love, doing nothing in particular, except enjoying the moment and each other’s company. Sometimes, that’s all one needs to feel happy and satisfied.
Christmas then, behind its array of religious and commercial-fictional stories, has a magical, special way of telling us how good it is to just stop and enjoy life as it is.
Behind the artificiality of the speed and social complexity that human beings have in time instilled upon the concept of life, there runs a more natural, basic existence—simple and true as the blood that runs in our veins. When me and my cousin look across the table at each other during dinner on Christmas Eve, no words are required—a smile and the joy in the eyes of the other person is all we need to know that we are simply and happily alive.
Edoardo is an Italian native and has lived and studied both in Italy and abroad. He graduated with a B.A. in Modern Languages and Economics from the University of Milan and with an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of London. He now lives and works in the city of Bologna.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.