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Christmas comes every year on December 25th….

Christmas comes every year on December 25th, but one never knows when the Christmas moment will hit.  It could be a song heard on the radio, or the scent of winter in the air.  But whatever, it never comes to everyone at the same time or in the same way or for the same reason.   We have our own peculiar way of being charged with the spirit that is special only to us.

When I was a little girl living on 43rd street in New York City, decorations didn’t appear until Thanksgiving was formally celebrated.  We enjoyed each holiday in its own time one not overlapping the other.  This was great because you could enjoy the anticipation, the present and the past of a holiday without confusion.   It made each holiday seem to last longer. Your being had a chance to settle down before the arrival of the next holiday.  You could just lose yourself in the excitement of each holiday.

New York City comes unto its own during this season.  And I loved the hustle and bustle of the streets. Such merriment can be comforting especially at a young age. The smell of chestnuts roasting on a street corner signaled the prelude to winter and the coming of Thanksgiving.  When Thanksgiving was a memory, the sighting of Christmas trees outside of the friendly neighborhood stores announced the beginning of the Christmas season. Local stores decorated their windows with winter scenes or snowflakes, Santa Clause, snowmen, Christmas bells, even a Nativity scene or angels.  Some played music, which was special, and you could hear it as you walked down the snowy sidewalks giddy with the smell of pine in the air. Merry Christmas was the greeting you happily called out back then.  You greeted everyone you passed with Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays. We might have said Happy Holidays but that would have been saved for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  We had Christmas break from school, not winter festival. Yes it was winter but it was really Christmas that we were going to celebrate. Even in the dreariest of times, such as during the war, everyone seemed joyful. Christmas has a magical way of doing that.

My head was filled with thoughts of Christmas but this was not the moment that invested the spirit in me.  We didn’t dream of many presents. That wasn’t even expected. What I waited for were traditional things.  My “Little Nonna” soaking Baccala in the sink in the cellar in preparation for Christmas Eve dinner.

Right around this time and very unexpectedly, for me anyway, my Father would arrive home with a very large Panettone and a Christmas Paneforte both of which would be cut up and shared with family. For lack of space in our apartment, they were stored on a rather temperamental radiator and the soft heat would allow them to perfume the rooms. Seeing these items arrive in the house was when the Christmas spirit hit.  I knew Christmas was not very long off. Things would start to happen in cadence now. Soon we would be going out for our tree.  But that’s for another story!





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