Amazon packages arrive by the truckload. Wrapping paper flies off its rolls. The sweet scent of once-a-year cookies wafts through the house. Christmas meals fill every nook of the freezer. Carefully crafted holiday greetings travel far and near. It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings and “must do’s” of the season. I should know – I’m a prime target for succumbing to holiday stress.
But the season has a wealth of feel-good experiences as well, and this year I happily overindulged my love for music and theater. All in the name of Christmas.
It has become an annual tradition to take our older grandchildren to see a Christmas play. This year we hit the big time, taking Ben and Mya to the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis to see “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It was Dr. Seuss to the core, and so very true to the book with a very green Grinch whose mouth sparkled redness. I knew the experience reached the kids when Ben leaned over to me mid-performance, and whispered, “This is really good!” He took the words right out of my mouth.
Just two days later, Rich convinced me to go see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. Although it travels through the Twin Cities, he insisted we needed to experience it in a small town. A four hour drive took us to Plummer MN, where indeed we were treated to an energetic community that rallied around the arrival of this brilliantly lit train. At 6:00pm the train slowly approached the crossing, its holiday colors reflecting against the local grain elevator as it passed. Once stopped, a draw-bridge like door came down with fog pouring out and laser lights pulsating. The country music performers where already in place and performing by the time it was fully open. Pressing against the stage, the crowd bounced to the music, performers hand-bumped the kids up front, and we all sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the musicians. Thirty minutes passed quickly, then the train resumed its journey – on to the next town. Its whole purpose is to support local food shelves, and indeed the evening’s take from locals as well as a generous donation from CP covers half their needs for the whole year. My heart glowed as brightly as my face in the glimmer of the retreating train.
Returning to Duluth the following day, we turned to home town entertainment. That very night we had tickets to “A Christmas Carol” at the Duluth Playhouse. No matter how many times I see that show, it always delights and conjures up the goodwill of the season. Topped off with wine and Christmas cookies with friends in the light of their decorated tree, it was an evening hard to beat.
Our finale involve another tradition – a school Christmas concert. This year I insisted on revisiting my past, attending the East High School Holiday Concert. Memories of my years in choir and the Choralaires came flooding back as I watched from the balcony. But even more pronounced was the depth of talent and commitment of the young musicians and their directors. The performance underscored what an amazing opportunity these youngsters have to participate in such excellent ensembles. I know now that it’s something they may never experience again in their lives. Shivers ran down my spine as the entire assembly of students closed the evening with “Carol of the Drums.”
Quite a blitz for one week. An abundance of holiday cheer, certain to propel me through the remainder of the Christmas season.