My New Favorite Things at Christmas
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Is there anyone who is not familiar with the above lyrics, written by Rogers and Hammerstein for The Sound of Music? Performed originally by Julie Andrews, the subsequent verses continue in harmony and bliss, but their implication remains the same. The “things”listed are all tangible. They are concrete and authentic for the most part.

Next, consider Roy Orbison’s Pretty Paper.

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

The lyrics again speak of tangibles – things you can touch and see. My intent is not to criticize the authors or their lyrics – I feel humbled just to quote them. I admire and respect the talent exhibited by them and scores of others whose words we first heard in our youth and sing frequently and pretty much automatically this time of the year.

Unfortunately, though, we do age…and age changes our ideas and sentiments. Our emotions become more complex through time and our attraction to the tinsel, glitter, and commercialism of Christmas seems to wane with each passing season. At least it has been doing so for me.

This is not to imply that our customary rituals no longer have a place at Christmas. Tangibles form a valid and genuine part of each of our fondest memories. Without the concrete associations we’ve experienced, we may not even be aware of the intangibles.

Thus, I am discovering today that I’m more likely to stop and reflect when I smell a freshly-baked nut roll, home-made and right out the oven. I am much more apt to stray for a moment attempting to capture again the taste of a raisin-filled poppy seed roll baked by my Aunt Ann. And I would give a month’s income to taste Mom’s Christmas cookies again, or sample her pumpkin pie.

I strain at times to hear once more the sound of crackling, brittle cellophane as a popcorn ball or candy cane is ripped open. I draw in more deeply when passing by a freshly cut evergreen and I stop a moment to breathe in its fragrance repeatedly, perhaps because I feel I require the respiratory therapy.

A model train chugging through a plastic town with a small light in the church steeple no longer causes me to pause and marvel at its design or ingenuity. Instead, I’m mesmerized by the fumes emitted from the smoke stack and l pay greater attention to the horn blast, just as I did when I got my first model train as a kid.

I hug relatives, particularly my wife, kids, and grandkids, with a deeper purpose today and I anticipate the return hug with much more enthusiasm. Hugging my dad last year both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is worth more to me today than anything money can buy. If I have any regret, it may be that I didn’t hug him harder and longer.

In short, I am much more likely to be influenced by Christmas intangibles today than I was during my youth.

If you consider yourself a baby boomer, maybe you, too, feel the difference during contemporary Christmas holidays. Is it possible that you also no longer look forward as much to what gift you might open on Christmas morning? Instead, your thoughts lie outside that dazzling box wrapped with a perfect bow.

Like me, might you rather wish for a world population living in peace than dream of winning the Powerball Lottery and purchasing more materialistic items with all that cash? And does working for a charitable cause occupy more of your time time today than it ever did in the past?

I’m discovering my attention, prayers, and well-wishes are more likely directed to a child undergoing cancer treatment today than my previous desires to inundate others with gifts for which they may have little use. I trust my meager donations to charities back up this sentiment, too.

I am comfortable admitting today that I not only laugh more often and with more vigor, but realize it’s okay for a grown adult, man or woman, to cry. Oddly, though, a child’s cries alarm me more so than they used to and I’m quicker in my old age to check to see if I might be able to offer assistance, even if I have to hobble a little to get there.

Are any of these perceptions ringing familiar Christmas bells with you? Are you also discovering that the intangibles of Christmas mean so much more today than they used to? I often joke with my wife that as I age, I’m not only getting more semi-mental in my thoughts, but also more sentimental with my priorities and reflections, too.

Perhaps the most mystic Christmas intangible of all might mean more to you today than at any other time in your life, too. Remember, Christmas fulfills a promise that a Savior, a Christ Child, was born. According to prophecy, this Savior will save mankind and provide us with the likelihood of an everlasting life in Paradise.

How could this intangible promise not make your list of favorite things?

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

An old Christmas display in a department store window

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA