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Harris Blackwood: Cherishing the Christmas meaning
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It’s Christmas. Well, it is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.

I don’t want to go too far into the weeds, but despite songs and poetic verses that talk about the “bleak mid-winter” and the mental image of Mary and Joseph trudging with a donkey in the snow, it probably didn’t happen that way.

Based on what is mentioned in the Bible, Jesus was probably born in the spring.

For the first 300 years or so, there was much debate as to how his birth should be commemorated. Some said there should not be a celebration and merriment. It should not be a holiday like the birthdays of Herod or Pharaoh.

There was also much debate about when it should be celebrated. Some said May, others April, still others said November and a few wanted January.

It wasn’t until Pope Gregory initiated the Gregorian calendar — pretty much the one we observe now — that we moved the celebration to Dec. 25. It was to counteract the pagan celebrations that took place around that time.

Christmas, the way we celebrated it, is more of a commemoration of Jesus’ birth than a birthday party.

But something happens that tells your inner being it is Christmas.

For me, it is the time I leave the church after the Christmas Eve candlelight service. When you go inside, the world is humming and bustling. An hour or so later, it feels like someone has flipped the “off” switch, and the world starts slowly creeping to a halt. Stores, including some open 24 hours a day, actually close their doors for the holiday. Christmas shopping is over, and a stillness takes over until sometime on the morning of Dec. 26.

I know it is Christmas when we sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. I know it is Christmas when it is cool enough for everyone to wear a festive red sweater to the event.

There is also something special about Christmas Eve showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “White Christmas” on TV. I’ve seen George Bailey stand up to that nasty Mr. Potter dozens of times. I’ve seen him discover his lip is bleeding again and reach into his pockets and find Zuzu’s petals. It never gets old.

I’ve seen Bing Crosby fall in love with Rosemary Clooney again and watched those big doors open to realize the much hoped for snow has finally arrived in Vermont on Christmas Eve. I love it every time.

I love when Santa gets on the phone and calls a few children to tell them he’s on the way. The excitement in the little voices is just magical.

Christmas is when too many high-caloric treats such as fudge, divinity, chocolate-covered peanuts or pecans are on hand. Christmas is when you overindulge with a promise to eat better starting the next day.

It may not be the very day Mary delivered a baby in a cattle stall, but it is our long-held tradition to honor and commemorate the occasion. You realize in a few hours, someone will flip the “on” switch and the world will resume its frantic pace.

Take a moment and absorb it like a sponge. If you’re lucky, it may hang around inside you for days to come.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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