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Christmas is a fascinating holiday, so central to our culture and so imbued with power that it's a little hard to write about. Nevertheless, there's something about Christmas that I deeply love, something that is really important to me - even though I am unsure exactly what it is.
Like most people, I have strong memories of Christmas as a child, recollections that make me happy. And here I am in as an adult, still marveling at the effect this holiday has on people and on me. It's a great thing to behold.
My earliest memories of Christmas are when I was an infant in Hawaii. We moved there from Anchorage when I was very little. At our house in Honolulu, my parents hung the Christmas tree from the ceiling so I wouldn't knock it over (or wreak havoc on it in some other way). Having been born in Anchorage, it was a little bizarre being in such a warm place, but that probably makes me all the more appreciative of winter now.
When I was a young boy, probably in the third grade, I stayed up and read "A Christmas Carol" in its entirety on Christmas Eve. I still have the same copy of this book, which kept me awake quite late reading. I guess I was so excited about the next day's festivities that I didn't feel much like sleeping anyway. Certainly my energy level the next day was in no way diminished by my Charles Dickens all-nighter. If fact, I went on to repeat this ritual every year until I was in junior high school in Palmer, rereading this classic holiday tale every year on the night before Christmas.
"A Christmas Carol" is one of the best-known books in the English language, one that has been interpreted many times over. While I haven't seen the most recent animated version - although I've heard it's quite good - I have enjoyed the retelling of this story many times over in stage and screen adaptations. The story is so appealing, perhaps because it deals with redemption of the human character in such fundamental terms.
This sort of wholesale reversal of the course of one's life may exist only in the pages of Dickens' novels, but it still inspires one's spirits, at least mine. What does it mean to have a chance to look at your whole life, and assess what you've done right and what you've done wrong? Is this only an exercise in fantasy, or is it something we all have the opportunity to do?
There are so many rituals and activities associated with Christmas that it's hard to discern what triggers the special feelings and emotions. Receiving presents is fun for obvious reasons, and giving gifts is wonderful because there is an intangible reward in bestowing a present upon someone special to you.
Like Scrooge when he awakes on Christmas morning, this holiday for me is still quite magical, just like it was when I was a little boy. Now it's for different reasons, however. Looking back on life, and also looking forward, I am struck at how celebrating Christmas is a reminder, just like the one Scrooge got, that every day of life is magic. We just need to remember to keep the joy of Christmas alive in our hearts each day.
Ben Brown is an attorney living in Juneau and is a lifelong Alaskan.