Do you believe in magic? Do you have faith in what cannot be seen? When I was a child I had an unwavering belief in magic; however, when I was nine years old, my best friend told me that Santa didn’t exist. She said her older brothers had finally told her the truth. I wondered…How could Santa not be real? He wrote me letters, ate my cookies, and left toys next to the fireplace. Not wanting to fall prey to the world of my friend’s non-believing brothers, I figured I’d better have some proof of Santa’s existence. So, I decided to investigate. I wrote Santa a note and asked straight out, “Are you real?” I hid the note under a statue on the hearth. If Santa Claus were indeed real (and not my parents, as my friend had told me), he’d be able to find it because he had magical powers. My parents knew about my plan, but I hadn’t told them where I’d hidden the note.
Early Christmas morning, in my pink pajamas, I made a beeline for the living room where I was overjoyed to find a letter addressed to me in Santa’s loopy script. I grabbed the letter, so excited I could barely breathe, and ran into my parents’ room, waking them with my shouting. “He’s real! He’s real! Santa said he was too busy to look for the note, but he wants me to know that he really is real.” That was all the proof I needed.
My parents and I now look back on this moment with such fondness. My belief in magic was so strong that it couldn’t be shaken, even when Santa couldn’t find my note. Years later, my mom told me how she’d scoured the house looking for the hidden note. Finally, when she couldn’t think of anywhere else to search, she came up with the idea of writing the letter. Here is a picture of me as a young girl on Santa’s lap:
By age eleven I understood that it was my parents who delivered the gifts, but to this day I fervently believe in the magic of the season. The spirit of Santa lives on in my heart. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of family gatherings, the stress of feeling like there’s too much to do, and the anxiety of overindulging and spending too much. The holidays are also a time when it’s pretty easy to feel lonely. But, when you connect with the true essence of the season, you can reignite the wonderment you felt as a child while watching the first snowfall or listening for the bell-chime that would announce an angel had gotten his wings.
Here are my six suggestions for making your holiday preparations easier, which in turn will help rekindle the magic:
1. Forget the Shoulds:
Much of the stress that accompanies the holidays happens because we live our lives by “should.” I know this might sound radical, but you don’t have to do what you don’t want to do. For instance, I don’t send holiday cards every year. I don’t want to feel obligated to do something that’s supposed to be fun. So, when I’m too busy or when I simply don’t feel like it, I don’t send cards. Surprisingly, hardly anyone seems to notice.
2. Be the Hero in Your Holidays
If Uncle George always raids the refrigerator before dinner without asking, and your niece always brings her purse dog and places it on the table for meals, it might make you want to pull out your hair. Families often do things that a friend would never dream of, but if you find it a challenge to be a sacred hostess to extended family, then look at it as a venerated quest. Like the hero who has to slay the dragon to achieve knighthood, look at each family member as an opportunity to grow more deeply and become even more loving.
3. It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
I have a tendency to knock myself out cleaning my home before guests arrive. Scrubbing and cleaning every nook and cranny sometimes takes so much out of me that by the time my guests arrive, I don’t have much left. But the truth is most people care more about feeling welcomed and appreciated than they do about your house being immaculate.
4. You Don’t Have to Do It All
One year my mom had an idea…instead of doing all the cooking the entire week, she asked each extended relative staying with us if they’d be willing to make a meal that was special to them in some way. My aunt had just returned from Bali, so she prepared a traditional Indonesian meal and told us about her trip while we dined on the sweet-salty delicacies. Had my mom done all the entertaining that week, we would have missed out on this heartfelt experience.
5. Slow Down
To rekindle the magic, put more emphasis on time rather than on things. Create magic rather than buying it. Perhaps this means making gifts by hand or maybe it means starting new family traditions that help you connect on a deeper level.
6. No Matter Your Situation, Choose It
The holidays can be joyous, but also they can be lonely. Although it may seem strange, consider choosing your situation, no matter what it is. This will make you an active participant in your life. Do something special. If you are alone for the holidays, consider treating yourself as the most honored guest in your home. Set the table with your best dishes, light candles, and if you drink, pour yourself a glass of wine. Buy yourself a gift and wrap it with care and attention. This may just end up being one of your best holidays yet.
As an adult, the holidays have different joys than they did when I was a child, but to me this continues to be one of the most magical times of year. I still believe in Santa Claus, only I believe in him in the way that I believe in the Creator, angels, or any other divine being. He may not be the one that puts the presents under the tree, but his spirit works through us each time we give freely without expectation and each time we spread joy, love, and light.
Meadow Linn, the co-author of Quest and The Mystic Cookbook, received her bachelor’s degree from Williams College and her master’s degree in French Cultural Studies from Columbia University. She has a popular column in a Seattle newspaper and writes a blog (www.savortheday.com) that’s filled with delicious recipes and stories about her journey to finding love.The daughter of the world-renowned healer, lecturer, and writer Denise Linn, Meadow has been cooking for the guests at her mother’s retreats for the past 18 years. While cooking professionally, she began to see the powerful connection between the way we feel and not just what we eat, but also how we eat, which propelled her on a path to share this knowledge.