Spirit of the Season

By JiJi Russell

Have you ever experienced a magical moment around the holidays? A special visitation? Exposure to live music or dance that moved you? Maybe there was a time when you brought the gift of company, food, fellowship, or song to someone else during this time of year. This is the stuff that forms the collective spirit of the season. Take notice; and perhaps offer something special to others when you can.

During the late-summer and fall, my family welcomed old friends to “neighbor” with us in their 35-foot “fifth-wheel” RV. With two children about the same ages as my own, we gladly took advantage of the built-in playdates and discoveries that four kids can make during schedule-less afternoons in the woods. The weeks we spent together provided a prelude of memorable moments ahead of the holiday season.

During the time of our visitors’ stay, my dear old friend Natasha and I shared a running inside joke centered around noticing magical moments (and quietly pointing them out to each other). A parenting blogger she read had commented, “I don’t have to make life magical for my kids; Life already IS magical!”

Noticing the awe of a child who witnesses the metamorphosis of a monarch; seeing the pure glee brimming from my kids when they’d get off the bus and their neighboring friends were ready and waiting to play all afternoon … these moments of magic sprang up spontaneously, without having been planned or contrived by anyone. I like to think of them as naturally-occurring magic, and there’s a lot of that going around this time of year.


Memories Alive 

I have a holiday remembrance that brings me renewed joy each year when we decorate our Christmas tree: When my son was about four years old, we were unpacking our Christmas ornaments, and he discovered a hand-blown glass ball, deep blue in color. Shimmery waves of iridescent yellow-green sparkled across the surface of the sphere. “Look, Mommy,” he said. “This ornament reflects the Northern Lights.” We had recently been looking at photos and talking about the Aurora Borealis. To experience a child’s connection between the wonders of nature and a beautiful family ornament brought a happy tear to my eye, and still does.

Below, a few Clarke County residents share their own moments of holiday magic.

“To this day, I know that I heard reindeer on the roof, and nobody can convince me otherwise,” said Laurine Kennedy, 54. “I can remember it clearly when I was five or six, thinking, Wow! He really is up there.”

“When I was around 10 and had just moved to Clarke County, I had never really experienced snow quite like the one we had here that year,” said Logan Williams, 17. “I had so many ideas of what I could do in my free time since we were out of school, but the main thing I had in mind wasn’t quite an easy task. It was to make an igloo. My dad and I worked hard, packing tight snow into a sand castle block we used as a mold. Several hours later, we had completed a top-notch igloo with seats and a door. I sat in there with my Chihuahua and was very proud of what we accomplished. Ever since, we’ve been making igloos during harsh winters, and it always brings me back to my first beautiful snow in Clarke County.”

“Cookies are in my family’s blood, but the one that is specific to Christmas memories are springerles,” said Kelly Kunkel, 53. “My family has been making springerles at Christmas for generations. The dough is rolled and then stamped with the patterned molds; then the cookies sit out all night so the pattern on top can harden. If it does not get stale on top, the pattern will bake out of the cookie. My mom had her ‘springerle board’ which was a big piece of plywood; she placed all the cut cookies on the board and set it in the cold garage overnight. She would bake them the next day.

“To me this is the most special Christmas cookie and memory from my Mom, Grandma Elsie, Great-Grandma Ida, Great Aunt Lena, Great Aunt Hen, and Cousin Patty, who all made or make springerles. Our recipe and baking style has changed over the years, but it’s still the basic springerle,” Kunkel said.

Maybe you will happen upon—or create—a special moment this season. I recommend preserving your memories by writing them down or passing them down orally. Here’s to discovering magic where you least expect it.

JiJi Russell, a yoga instructor and Integrative Nutrition health coach, manages the corporate wellness program for American Public University System in Charles Town, W.Va. Reach her at jijiyoga@yahoo.com.