Christmas is inside people.

You know what really scares me?
Not the holiday itself, but that each consecutive year, despite its ever earlier encroachment, it seems to take a lot more Autumnal effort to summon that holiday spirit or conjure up a seasonal emotion which for decades had been an effortless thrill.
Does the excitement just naturally fade with age or is it jaded and faded by the retail traps and mazes that now try much too hard to catch us up in their interpretations and dictations of mass joy?
Pre-Halloween has always been unreasonably out of the question, but pre-Thanksgiving is now increasingly expected if you’re to fully enjoy the magic even though 58% of the country is still well over 73 degrees.

It’s just a little scary when it takes this much work to get happy.
And 2020 adds ten-fold insult to that injury.
So I went to WalMart.

If anything says Christmas in September, it’s WalMart, No cigar.
Then I turned on the radio station already ripe with carols. No cigar.
Almost 60, shopping and sing-alongs no longer do it for me.

Weeks after, there were several near misses, disappointing myself at every turn. Baking, decorating, bad sweaters, none seemed capable of the transitional trick. So I stayed home where I’ve been for the past 9 months and cleaned the garage this weekend. High atop one stack, I reached for a dusty small plastic crate of photos which, as it turned out, held memories of Christmases past I’d long forgotten.

Photos included a selfie with Mom from that day a couple years ago we spent reminiscing that I vowed never to forget. Others included Santa Claus moments of 30 years past with my kids. And though my tree’s been up for weeks already out of sheer October convenience, I got out the last of the decorations and put on the finishing touches with occasional tears from ornaments of Christmases gone by.

I felt things inside me changing, much like a Grinch moment, and it was then I encountered the obvious truth.
Christmas isn’t created by things and stuff and trappings. It’s inside people.
It’s our special stories, our humored histories and the little searches we Google in chats with one another as the weather begins to change and we grow just a little bit closer.
And then waking one morning, something tips the scales just enough to conjure the Spirit we’d been seeking all along. And for the first time of the year, and certainly not the last, we utter our first “Merry Christmas” to a stranger, and the joy we’ve waited for an entire year finally arrives.