The Top Ten Things I Can Count On In December

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, December 23, 2009

Sometimes I like to know how things will play out.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

December is a month that provides a lot of sure things. Here are the top ten I can count on every December:

10. Shorter days give way to longer ones. As a person drawn to light, I look forward to the Winter Solstice. I like knowing that every year, on a certain day, from that day on, the sunlight will last longer.

9. The possibility of snow. Even in our mild climate snow usually makes an annual appearance. It can be as early as October or even into March. But like it or not, December means we could see some of the white stuff. Last year’s white Christmas was an anomaly for us, and while getting around the county was dicey, staying home and watching the snowfall was dream-like.

8. The best in people. Kindness, mercy, and generosity are everywhere. Many folks are celebrating religious holidays, and warm thoughts often stunted by day-to-day survival burst through as people reach out to others in a variety of ways. In general, smiles are easy to come by this time of year.

7. At least two of my children will vie for top ornament placement on our Christmas tree. These boys each have a particular decoration they claim as their own, and must see who can put it on the highest bow. One even competed through his younger brother while he was away in Europe. The competition is fierce, but fun.

6. Tears. Oh, there will be weeping for one reason or another. It might be my own, or someone else’s. It might be because of a well-planned surprise, or missing someone who’s not around. It might be because of a sudden infusion of joy, or exhaustion. But December will, without question, bring tears.

5. Ferndale’s holiday street decorations. I like knowing that the day after Thanksgiving, or sometime close to that, I’ll get to see the jewel-colored candles and wreaths attached to light poles all down Main Street. The short, dark, colder days are just a little sunnier because of these spots of color in our little town.

4. Holiday music. The spectacular—like Handel’s “Messiah.” The well worn, yet sentimental, like Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  Some of it makes me want to rock around the Christmas tree, or dance a bluesy groove like Brian Setzer’s “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.”  But most of it’s something we don’t hear any other time of the year. Great tunes are busted out in December.

3. The advent calendar I made almost 30 years ago. It’s a wall hanging of a landscape with a gingerbread house and little holiday characters that attach to it with Velcro. Sugarplums, an angel, a wreath, a snowman, and other seasonal items all lead up to the culminating addition of a puffy, felt Santa on Christmas Eve. When my kids were little it was an event to add a piece each day. Now, the youngest is a teenager, and he still does it—when I’m not looking.

2. Outrageous food. In December we cook things we don’t any other time of the year. It’s a time for family favorites, the dishes that cost too much, are too fattening, and usually more delicious than should be allowed by law. It’s a time when we eat things we’re pretty sure we shouldn’t eat again until at least next December. For one month, butter, sugar, and goo are our friends.

And the number one thing I can count on in December:

The re-arrangement of my Nativity scene. It sits on top of my piano. And every December I love the tradition of placing the characters in their assigned spots. When my children gather in, they quietly redo it in amusing ways. It used to make me mad. Now, it makes me smile. They love me, and their teasing is proof of that.

Having things to look forward to makes life spicy, rich and joyous. May your holidays be full of them.