The rush of decorating and shopping has mercifully come to a close, leaving today for the company of family and friends, for joy and excitement and the wonder and hope of what the new year will bring. Christmas Day has always been special. And with many Americans still struggling to find firmer financial footing, the occasion brings some much-needed warmth and an opportunity to reflect on a day rich in spirit and family.
A late Thanksgiving may have denied Americans a prolonged stay at the malls, but this year's holiday still has the usual look and feel of Christmas. The chaos of the morning, the ornaments handed down, the generations coming together to enjoy age-old recipes — all manage to have their moments within a single day. The familiar rhythm seems especially comforting this year, as the nation begins its final year winding down its longest war, and as the economic recovery looks to move the nation onto higher and firmer ground. America certainly has seen worse holiday seasons. But these remain anxious times for many families, especially for those who see their childhood decorations on the tree and a new world order under it.
This Christmas finds the nation moving in the right direction. Our men and women are coming home from Afghanistan. Millions more will soon have health insurance. The nation is improving its schools and roads, and its leaders are working across the board, though with uneven results, to bring peace on Earth. One in four Americans volunteers, and the $175 billion in services they provide exceeds the economy of two-thirds of the world's countries. America is still the well of good will at home and abroad.
So there is plenty of reason for optimism in this season of hope. Christmas always has been a time for simple pleasures. The holiday has its own sights, sounds and smells — certainly its own costs. But Christmas is also a moment to relish the best of the human spirit. It is a time to savor the nostalgia of childhood, the journeys of family, the pleasure of generosity and the rituals that give the holiday meaning. It is a day that has endured by uniting mankind in times of both war and peace. Merry Christmas. The sweaters may be tacky, but the sentiment is pure.