Friday, December 26, 2008

I've Got Spirit, How About You?

Last night, on Christmas evening, I caught an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, the sitcom from the late 90’s starring John Lithgow as the high commander of four aliens who settle in a small city in Ohio to observe the human race. They were happy to celebrate their one year anniversary being on earth which also happened to be around the time of Christmas. They were very excited about the holiday until one thing or another extinguished their Christmas spirit, only for it to be rekindled before the end of the episode. That episode basically summarized in 28 minutes what I’ve gone through with my sentiment over the holiday season in the 28 years of my life.

This time of year used to be my favorite ‘twas the season to sing Christmas carols, watch A Christmas Story, eat candy canes and get presents. As a kid, I would do as any other kid would, get excited about getting presents, and tried to sneak peeks into what I would get. As I got older, the obligations and responsibilities of getting older, like taking tests and writing papers, along with the pressure of getting presents for the people “who counted” and making sure that I gave the right present – something that’s nice, but not TOO nice as to imply you were trying too hard for the particular person. Then came combing the malls and battling for parking spaces during the holiday shopping crunch, trying to find that “perfect” present for anyone and everyone. I sang few carols during that time, I didn’t get as many candy canes, and I cared less and less about getting presents, and even if I had any, I was more conscious of the beautiful wrapping that someone paid for just for it to be torn apart and discarded without much thought.

That’s not to say that I’ve become a regular Scrooge when it comes to this time of year; it just didn’t have that same kind of magic that it once held in my heart. Thankfully, my most recent trip to Europe reminded me what the Christmas spirit was all about. In fact, being there seemed more like Christmas than I’ve felt in a long time.

It helps that Munich and Salzburg are both very Catholic, and with Christmas just around the corner, holiday decorations, ice skating rinks, and if they weren’t up yet, Advents/Christkindl/etc. market stands were going up and running, selling Nativity scene figures and sets, Christmas tree ornaments, handmade toys, etc.

The highlight of these markets were the food stands that would sell things like Heisse Marroni (Roasted chestnuts), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds), candied fruits, various types of Wurst, and the highlight of the trip, having Glüwein (mulled wine served hot) to warm up during the cold, winter-like days.

Aside from the fact that this was my first time being in a snowy place for the longest period of time, particularly during the Christmas season, being surrounded by Christmas without the pressure of having to buy something or get something for someone else.

I came back from the trip charged with Christmas spirit, ready to face the mall and whatever holiday season frustration I may have to face. That included being flipped off by a well-manicured hand that came out from under a window of a minivan while my roommate and I were driving on the 5 Freeway the day of Christmas Eve.


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