As I grew up and into my teens, my own friends and their families became most of my Christmas and holidays weren't celebrated much anymore in my own home, due to family problems. Later, I was married and holidays revolved around children. So the essence of my own, personal Christmastime nostalgia centers on the magical years during which I was from about age seven through nine. And the "event" that stands out in my memory and makes me smile was brought about by my father.
Daddy, though very personable and well-liked, was not a warm and fuzzy person; my relationship with him was one I'd describe as an aloof friendship; he would occasionally buy me a treat or spend a few minutes talking with me. So I was greatly surprised and touched by the playfulness of his Christmas spirit, which appeared two Christmases in a row back then.
Lying in my bed on Christmas Eve, I wanted to believe Santa Claus was coming, even though the logistics didn't make sense to me. My mother would tell me to go to bed because she thought she had heard Santa's bells and she didn't want him to skip our house. I would lie there with my own version of sugar plums dancing in my head :) And this I was doing. I had heard my parents' voices talking in muted tones in the kitchen. All at once, I heard the sound of bells jingling outside. They sounded very clear and sharp in the cold New England night air, especially as there was snow on the ground. I listened -- the bells paused -- and then began jingling again, this time under my window and then moving toward our backyard. How exciting! Could it be Santa? But I resisted the urge to sit up in my bed, let alone look out the window. I didn't want to break the spell! I realized in those moments, that my serious, aloof father was playing Santa because his own inner child wanted to bring me Christmas delight :) I was thrilled and so happy. He repeated the performance the following year, running (my father was athletic) across our land jingling the bells :)
Now, many years later, the family scene has completely changed, and with it Christmas. Now it's mostly a quiet time. My dog, in her twelfth year, prances in her red sweater. I dress Fiona, my ficus tree, in colored lights. We play some holiday music. I make a quiche that has become traditional for me over the last 20 or more years. I enjoy exchanging holiday greetings with friends and strangers. But in the distant past lies that spark ... my memories of Santa, that warms the magic of Christmas Eve for me.