Kerry Temple | January 3, 2017
On the night before Christmas, when I was little, the very air would be teeming with excitation. The world felt wondrous and magical and alive in anticipation of the unbelievable making a real-life visit.
Santa Claus was coming to town. And flying reindeer. Arriving by sled. Gift-giver dropping down chimneys. Bestowing presents miraculous in nature — delivered to children everywhere, yet granting personal wishes. I loved it. I loved the stories, the myth, the magic of possibility.
It wasn’t Christmas Day as much as Christmas Eve. Everything poised in hope and promise. The tree, the stockings hung from the mantel, the idea of Santa Claus sailing around the earth, in the dark of night, and landing at 721 Kirby Place. And the palpable thrill of the final acts: Cookies on a plate, glass of milk, carrots for the reindeer, the intersection of faith and mystery, make-believe and homemade treats left for the jolly stranger who would come — right to this very spot — while I slept.
It wasn’t just Santa Claus, though. There was the aura of that first Christmas night. Angels and shepherds, the stable, straw and radiant starry sky. That miracle, too, winning my imagination. God’s Son coming to earth as a baby on the lonely, mystical plains in a land far, far away. The power of it all!
There was Midnight Mass, the beautiful music, the choir, our resplendently ornate church packed with believers, smelling of incense, lush with green boughs, poinsettias and garland. I recall one year stepping out of the church at 2 a.m. as large feathers of snow drifted through the air — a sight rarely seen in my Louisiana hometown. I don’t know if the world has ever felt as holy and as right as it did right then. God and family and the enchantments of spirit turned real. Magic in the air, as real as the vapor we exhaled that crystal cold night.