2010-12-02 / Opinions

The ‘ghosts’ of Christmas memories bring flashbacks of holidays past

By KIP BURKE news editor
Well, it’s happened. I got another visit from an old Christmas ghost.

I’m not talking about the wooscary type of ghosts. Christmas ghosts, in this case, are those random holiday memories that out of nowhere hit you with surprising strength, after being jogged by just a bit of familiar holiday music or a warm Christmasy kitchen smell. Just for a second you feel yourself transported back into that time, with all the feelings flooding back – the ghosts of Christmases past.

Then it’s gone.

The ghost comes as an old childhood memory, sometimes just as a hazy picture in your mind’s eye, sometimes a whole Technicolor movie scene from the past. Suddenly you can feel the feelings you felt back in that childhood Christmas, just for a moment. For a second or two, you get a taste of the magic of Christmas, then you’re back in the real world.

For me, those flashbacks leave a delicious warm glow of childhood holidays spent with a family that loved me, and visits with an extended family full of laughter. At Christmas, nothing was quite the same. There was special food, and special music, special smells and sounds in the house. On top of that, we all were expecting a magical, top-secret event that would leave us kids with new toys and other loot. What’s not to love?

Your childhood Christmases may not have been pleasant, and I’m sorry if you’re one who struggles through the season. I do have memories of being alone and lonely when I was in the Navy, but I figure it was a small price to pay for all the other times.

These flashbacks of Christmas Past come more and more often as Christmas approaches, and I just got one the other day. It was a small moment – a combination of seeing a small house lined with blue lights and remembering, in my late mother’s voice, her vivid comments about a tacky house “lit up like a beer joint” – and suddenly I felt, briefly, the fleeting ghost of childhood Christmas past. It came and went quickly, just a little something for me to savor in my heart.

Feeling a visit from ghosts of Christmas memories is not the same as getting into the Christmas spirit. We all do that, more or less, with hearing Christmas music and seeing decorations and soaking up those continuous ads since Halloween. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But my Christmas ghosts are different from my Christmas spirit.

We often stir up the ghosts of Christmas past by looking at old photos and videos from holiday seasons gone by. It’s a pleasure best enjoyed when you’ve got a few dozen Christmases to remember from. At a certain age, it gets tough to remember if you’re remembering the actual event or just remembering the photo, but it doesn’t really matter. When those old ghostly memories are welcomed with open arms, we can lose ourselves for hours in memories, and the older we are, the loster we can get. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either. I love to just sit and remember with family and friends, hearing from the ghosts they’ve all harbored in their hearts for years. Wandering through memories with those you love, even the ghosts of the bitter with the sweet, is one of the bestest gifts we can give each other this year.

And it doesn’t cost a thing.

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