The countdown is on

Patrick Butler
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It’s exam week, and the Christmas bug has set in. Distraction is unavoidable.

From the holiday lights to the dusted off Sinatra tracks to the

daily spam clogging my mailbox, reminders of the steadily approaching holiday season are everywhere.

Still, with the impending doom of finals, I can’t say I mind too much. It’s a welcome respite from studying. You know, that thing I should be doing.

No doubt about it, the holidays have infected my mind.

Come this time of year, the yearning for home, family and friends is unshakeable. A turkey dinner or two wouldn’t go astray, either, but I digress.

Call it what you will — homesickness, seasonal affective disorder, salt meat deprivation — there is something that beckons us home when the Christmas season rolls around.

Nostalgia has something to do with it, of course. We all carry those romanticized notions of gathering around the hearth or decorating the tree or world peace or whatever. Whether things actually play out that way when the whole family is in town is another story, as we can all attest to.

But there is undeniably a certain romance to the holidays.

There’s the midnight church service, dutifully attended every Christmas Eve.

There’s the cherry cake, molasses cookies and peanut butter balls that make their long-awaited appearance after Nan and Pop take the trip in over the highway.

Then there are those nighttime drives around town to check out the lights and those brightly coloured tissue paper hats that mark the end of every Christmas dinner.

The staples of the season — holiday concerts, Salvation Army kettles, Christmas trees and eggnog — are all things for which we have a special affection.

For anyone like me, counting down the days until they hop on a plane or jump into a car for the trip home, just thinking about them makes us smile.

But these are the secondary elements of Christmas, the gumdrop buttons to the larger gingerbread man. Important, I’ll admit, but not the bread and butter — or should I say milk and cookies — of the holiday season.

As everyone knows deep down, it’s the people that make the holidays what they are.

The Christmas season offers a shared experience that goes unmatched throughout the rest of the year.

Gone are the times when families went visiting on Sundays. Nowadays, the Christmas holidays are one of the few times a year when the whole clan crams into the one place.

Over Christmas, the house is fuller, warmer and more alight than any other time of year. And noisy, don’t forget noisy. Spoon up some turnip, mashed potatoes and pease pudding and it isn’t long before raucous laughter drifts from the dining room to the kitchen table, reserved overflow for the younger cousins not blessed by first birth.

It’s those dinners, together with the house parties and drop-ins that accompany them, that make thinking about Christmas unavoidable to people away from home.

Christmas gives us an excuse to see each other, to laugh and to carry on. It’s the perfect pretext for people to get together and share each other’s company. The drinks flow, the food is plentiful and the ambiance perfect for reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

The holidays breathe the life back into people. They force us out. Over Christmas, we break out of our shells, don those silly tissue paper hats and let loose for a while. Together at long last, we make the most of it.

While we may salivate over whatever home-cooked meal pops into our heads as we count down the days before we make it home, the true magnetizing force drawing us back for Christmas is the promise of the shared company of family and friends.

Chin up. Only a few more days to go.

Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is enrolled in the journalism

program at Carleton University.

He can be reached by email

at patrickbutler5@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: Salvation Army, Carleton University

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