Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas ambiance

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
It’s true, we work at creating a Christmas ambiance.  It is a warm, delightful, memorable environment that is created not just by one or two special features but with at least five elements that, together, make a difference.  

The lighting is diffused, but it comes from candles in the window and unblinking white Christmas tree lights that are coordinated with evergreens across the mantle that have similar lighting. They produce a calming effect.  There is a ceramic Christmas tree in the dining room with multi-colored lights, a white-lighted Christmas tree on our porch, and the sway hung from the arch between the living and dining rooms has multi-colored lights.
Our Christmas tree — what I call our “Memory Tree” — is hung with the trinkets and small souvenirs we collect on our many road and cruise trips.  In addition, it is strung with artificial cranberries and artificial popcorn, but what gives it a true Early-American flavor is the baby’s breath that fills all the nooks and crannies when the tree is finally, fully decorated.
Music contributes to the ambiance as well.  As I have collected the close to 100 Christmas CDs over the years, I have concentrated mostly on CDs that have music without singers or singing.  It is soothing, restful, peaceful, and creates a light mood that fills the senses.  I have CDs that feature the piano by itself as well as others that include solo performances using the flute, harp, saxophone, hammered dulcimer, pan flute, and other such instruments.   I enjoy light classics as well as traditional carols, but it is the effect of the pleasant background that creates the true ambiance.
We have a fireplace in our living room, and at Christmas we light the ceramic-wood-looking logs.  The fire along with all the other Christmas lights provide enough light for family members to converse, drink their hot tea, eggnog, or hot spiced cider and nibble on crackers topped with smoked oysters, cream cheese and black or red caviar, as well as other Christmas hors d’oeuvers.
Our final contribution to the Christmas ambiance is developing a pleasant scent.  We have found that vanilla home fresheners serve this purpose.  Other methods include burning scented candles or simmering a holiday potpourri on the stove.
When I come to the dining-room table in the morning for breakfast by myself, it is before the sun comes up.  While everything is dark, I turn on the Christmas lights of three trees as well as the archway greenery between the living and dining rooms, put on a Christmas CD that has no words, and simply bask in the wonderful Christmas ambince.
It is, indeed, Christmas ambiance, and it doesn’t exist just in our home.  No matter what your religion or what you believe, there is no escaping holiday programs, decorations, and special Christmas events.  Maybe I’m a softie (I know I am!), but I am deeply affected by the holiday spirit.
When I see the houses in my neighborhood all lit up, when I see stores heavily decorated, and even the stores with aisles and aisles of Christmas merchandise, and then when it snows and everything is white, it just reinforces all the joy I feel sitting in my house.  For me, all of this has to do with joyfulness, celebration, and a true sense of belonging — not just to a wonderful, supportive, and delightful family, but to a neighborhood and a community.  
When everyone is enjoying the holidays, there is an invisible bonding that occurs that keeps the human connections vibrant, alive, and important.
I am fully cognizant of those people who object to having manger scenes on public grounds — and I completely agree with their purpose in maintaining the separation of church and state — but I have always felt that this isn’t the proper season for protest, objection, or demonstration.  These points can just as easily be made, discussed, and decisions made at other times.  Not at Christmas.  Christmas is the season for joy, happiness, and celebration.
Think about it, there aren’t enough times during the year (or even in our lives) when everyone comes together with all of their lights, decorations, Christmas programs, and special seasonal events to proclaim and reflect the holiday spirit.
You can claim that all of this —everything designed to celebrate Christmas — is designed with the express purpose of proclaiming the birth of Jesus, but I would contend otherwise.  That may explain some of the etymology of Christmas, but in no way does that need to explain how it has evolved.  I believe that everything that is Christmas — all of the ambiance and spirit — can be clearly seen and enjoyed without the haze of religion clouding the topic.  That is, indeed, the point of this essay: how easy it is to enjoy everything that is Christmas for the sheer joy of the lights, appreciation of the decorations, delight in the music, acknowledgment of the scents, and ability to take in the special events that mark the annual event.
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The Purpose of Christmas website, offers wonderful information as well as a terrific, informative, and interesting article by Tom Flynn, “What Today’s Americans Need to Know about Xmas.”

Alyice Edrich’s essay, “Get Into the Christmas Spirit,” at the Ezine@rticles website, offers twelve specific ways to get into the Christmas Spirit.  She ends her essay saying, “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's something that will make you feel good about yourself and the season.”

Kat Apf’s essay, “Simple ways to get into the Christmas spirit for the holidays,” at the Hellium website offers eight different ways.  Kat discusses the topics, music, food, volunteer, small people, religion, friends, Christmas cards, and decorate.  “In the end,” Kat finishes the essay saying, “Just relax and do the things you enjoy and the Christmas spirit will most likely follow.”
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Copyright December, 2011, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIIDecember 22, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    I'm assuming when Kat Apf refers to "small people" in her essay, she means elves. MERRY CHRISTMAS!


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