Christmas, 2014

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Our 2014 Christmas treeMaybe it’s because we spent last Christmas on the waters of the Florida Everglades. Or maybe it’s because this year has held more than the usual vicissitudes. For whatever reason, this year we found ourselves focused intently on the traditional trappings and rituals: A live tree, with real candles. A wreath, with ribbons and a bell. Roast goose, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. Christmas carols.

And they were wonderful: As the sun set on Christmas Eve, the apartment filled with the scent of roasting goose (overpowering the fresh fragrance of pine). Dinner that night was magical, with light glittering everywhere, and the sound of Christmas carols on the air.

Johna's favorite ornamentChristmas Day, we slept late, then spent a splendid several hours opening gifts. Okay, more like a few minutes doing the actual opening—but since most of the gifts were books (and most of the remainder was food), we spent a lazy afternoon listening to music, reading, and nibbling cookies. On Boxing Day, we did the official tree-candle lighting (complete with obligatory stand-by bucket of water and fire extinguisher).

All the trappings were there, and the rituals were most satisfactorily observed.  But even more than the trappings and decorations, what resonated most with us was the meaning of Christmas: light in darkness, hope for better times to come.

As we wrote a few years back: “What’s different about Christmas is that it celebrates not that which is, but that which is to come.

Every other holiday celebrates an accomplishment or achievement: Thanksgiving is a classic harvest festival,  in which we give thanks for the year’s bounty.  The Fourth of July celebrates the attainment of independence. Hallowe’en is the remembrance of the dead, and New Year’s celebrates the arrival of the New Year. And so on.

Christmas alone is a celebration of hope.

For Christians, of course, the celebration is the birth of Jesus. But the birth of Jesus is, in a very real sense, the arrival of hope, the hope that an innocent child can be stronger than the worst evils of this world, that God is returning to His people, and that love will conquer evil. The birth of Jesus is just the start of that hope.

And the hope isn’t just for Christians. Regardless of when the birth of Jesus happened historically (and there is considerable speculation on this point), the ancient Christians elected to celebrate the birth of Christ roughly concomitantly with an older festival: Winter solstice.

Solstice, too, is a celebration of hope: The hope that the days will once again begin to lengthen, light will conquer darkness, and warmth will return.

Whether you’re a fervent Christian or an equally-fervent atheist or something else, in other words, celebrating Christmas is an act of existential courage. We are celebrating the hope that light, goodness, and warmth will return to the world.”

That, to us, is the true meaning of Christmas this year, and every year—even more than the tree, the goose, or the carols.

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(Click on any photo to start slideshow)

80 responses to “Christmas, 2014

  1. Yeah, best Xmas tree ever !!!!!!!! See you soon! This is a wonderful post. All our love, from landlocked Arizona :) Jean & Alex

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post… I hope you have a wonderful 2015 ahead. Best wishes. Aquileana :D

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Just Think and commented:
    Merry christmas

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing. Really, deep messages. Love it :D

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful post! Wishing you all the very best for 2015!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your tree is beautiful. I love Christmas trees. I will get out my tripod and take a picture of mine. You day sounds wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Oh Connie, you definitely should. And yes, it was wonderful. Very peaceful… with the smell of the tree and the Christmas carols (we play them nonstop, the old kind that is). Merry Fourth Day of Christmas!

      Like

  7. season’s greetings and all good wishes for the year ahead…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Same to you! Congratulations on the retirement—I hope one of your voyages brings you to New York! (And if you decide to do any consulting work in shipping and logistics, NYC can always use your talents!) Best wishes to you and yours for 2015!

      Like

  8. Eloquently said and true. (Relieved to hear you keep a bucket of water and fire extinguisher close to hand!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you! And it’s funny–like all Americans, I’m paranoid about fire from the candles.

      But we’ve never had an incident (knock on wood). And really, the chances are minimal, with a well-watered tree and attention paid to candle placement. But we Americans have been taught to worry….so we do!

      Like

  9. I’m really impressed you did the actual-candle thing! It looks a lovely tree. And roast goose, now that is traditional. Here’s to hoping for a good 2015. See you soon as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Vlad is big on the traditional way of doing things, yes. I used to worry about the candles but I’ve come around–like most risks, it can be mitigated. And they are soooo pretty. Not sure if we’ll make the Jan 3 event but will definitely see you soon–on the water I hope!

      Like

  10. Thanks Johna! A lovely expression of the Celebration. The din of our commercial Christmas makes keeping the true meaning of and reasons for it hard to keep in focus. You have dialed it in beautifully.

    Merry Christmas to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you, George! For us it retains the ancient symbolism… and I’m grateful for that! Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you!

      Like

  11. Merry Christmas. The little red horse really catches my imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for the very thoughtful post and the beautiful pictures,
    Pit

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post , I am an Atheist Myself but do enjoy the Traditions and trappings of the Holidays along with spending time with Family . Gotta get Me one of those kayak ornaments you have on your tree :) ..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your tree is lovely. What I like the most is that your Christmas dinner table is right near it. Beautiful message, too. 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

  15. love this post – and the tree looks GREAT!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Perfect! Yes, hope for the future lies at the very heart of Christmas. Perhaps hope is the magic that is Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Lovely post, and I so enjoyed looking at your picture gallery. Happy New Year to you and Vlad. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Light goodness and warmth. Amen. :-)
    Happy whatever. As long as it’s peace-filled and happy!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Gorgeous photos. And how brave to use real candles on your tree! It makes it very beautiful and real!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A wonderfully beautiful post – filled with hope and positive thoughts. Happy Holidays to you all!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Lovely thoughts, lovely post (love the kayak ornament and of course, the candles) and let’s hope 2015 is a bit more gentle, eh? Best to you two!

    Liked by 1 person

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    I will be grateful. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Sweet as a Picture

    What a wonderful Christmas celebration! Merry Christmas! Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Great post. Anna and I were there with you both in spirit.

    Much love. John

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Love this post even though I am late! I was just about to ask if you had a kayak ornament or 20?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hope indeed, great tree! Have a wonderful New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I like that you have a fire extinguisher for the candles, though Pepper and I were more concerned about that scary extension cord for the lights.
    (Talk about an inside joke…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Scary extension cord has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Well, the dustbin of kitchen, anyway (despite Vlad’s somewhat pro-forma protests–that Eastern European unwillingness to throw anything out!). But the electric lights no longer flicker–funny, that!

      Like

      • I’ll have you know that the extension cord had been exhaustively tested through at least 20 years of reliable service, whereas the Christmas tree candles, not nearly so long… And speaking of scary wiring, have you taken a look at the rest of the wiring at 92?—from the 1960s, if not the 1930s… :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Catherine Gibson

    Love the arc of your Christmas celebration – thanks for sharing it with us

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Definitely captured Christmas with this set Vladimir – the smell descriptions made me quite hungry

    Liked by 1 person

  30. A most wonderful New Year for you both! Your tree always rocks…

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Pingback: Our 2015 Calendar | Wind Against Current

  32. Pingback: Farewell Christmas Tree | Wind Against Current

  33. What a warm and lovely photo essay. I came to it a bit after the fact but I can at least wish you both Happy New Year and excellent paddling!

    Like

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