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Illustration: Sarah Kift

 

Sarah Kift: A Quiet Christmas
Illustration: Sarah Kift

 
 

 

When I was eight, I leapt out of bed Christmas Eve in my East Vancouver house, convinced I had heard bells — sleigh bells, in fact, on our roof. I had to be coaxed back to bed by a pragmatic and slightly concerned mother, who probably made a mental note to schedule a hearing test while she was shushing me to sleep again. 

I was utterly sensitive to all things fanciful, in spite of the fact that my parents had never taught us any Kris Kringle lore. I knew firsthand, having witnessed my mother sneak around the house in slippers at 3 a.m. filling stockings, that Santa & Co did not exist. 

I've committed all the usual Christmas follies — peeking at presents, stealing candy off the gingerbread house, getting sloshed at the office party, regifting — but I become reverent and pious in the presence of silent nights.  

I usually work Christmas Day. When that rare, wonderful, big snow happened in 2008, I walked home after work, dancing around stalled buses and dejected motorists, savouring the quiet that had befallen the usually bustling streets of Vancouver. The stories my friends like to tell most about Christmastime are the ones that involve extraordinary circumstances, kind strangers, and above all else, the sweet silence before the big celebratory day.  

I too love the way the world gets quiet around Christmas Eve. I'm a Silent Night kind of gal. Following close on weeks of merchandising mania, last-minute baking and express post parcels, this special Eve takes a breath, fills its lungs with all the anticipation, desire and planning of the previous month, and holds it. All is calm, all is bright. 

Foolish, perhaps, to hold my breath in the gorgeous quiet of the late evening, to hear bells and hope that, come morning, all will be well, the turkey will not dry out, that gift I moved heaven and earth for will be received with joy and not disdain, and Aunt Lucy will keep her eggnog consumption below the legal limit.  

I may leave other forms of folly behind this season, but I will never give up my childish taste for the sparkling, clear calm of a world not yet waking, presents unopened, snow crunching underfoot. It is a blessed space where mystery roams while mortals sleep and my holiday imagination can wile away the hours with the best gift of all: possibility.

 

 
   
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