Winter begins on the calender December 21st but in the Mid-West we feel the bite of Old Man Winter much sooner. Riding beside Jack Frost cold bitter weather chills our bones. Snow seeps into our boots and our noses turn bright as a berry. Rudolph as no monopoly on Midwesterners.

The Christmas season officially begins Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) when huge masses of people flock to the stores, the malls and every othe place they can think of. Money seems to rain from the sky as the slap of plastic on counters and the crackle of crisp bills tells the story of the latest Christmas gift craze. Over the years we’ve seen everything from Pet Rocks, to Cabbage Patch dolls to Chia Pets. If there is a fad to be had midwest daughters, mothers and grandmothers are bound to keep it going when Christmas time rolls around.

The reality is that those who live in the middle of the nation, myself included, are in love with the Christmas holiday. Perhaps everyone is. What I know is that we can’t wait for it to begin. I find it amazing that somehow in the final days, ney hours, we find ourselves racing for that perfect gift. We’ve spent over a month shopping and somehow we still haven’t found everything. Zero hour nears and we scramble our brains in desperate ferver hoping and praying that something will catch our eye and literally scream out to us, “I’m for Bob. Buy me!”

At home we deck the house out with lights, garland and huge displays of blow-up creatures. There is more wattage pulsing outside our doors than in and somehow we don’t much care. “Hang the cost,” we say. “It’s Christmas.” Inside we have several trees because one isn’t enough. If we only put up one half our ornaments wouldn’t be used. Never would it occur to us to give some away or not to buy more. “It’s shiny. Aw, isn’t he cute. That would match the music box on the mantle. Wrap it up.”

Christmas morning dawns. The light hasn’t reached our windowsills and the rooster has yet to crow but we bundle ourselves in slippers and robe and make our way down the steps. The trees are still lit from the night before and we smile at their cheer glow. They seem to be saying Merry Christmas and we answer in silent kind. The day has arrived.

Under the main tree are so many packages you would think there was a Santa Claus. Really, the charge card companies are playing Santa for a few weeks until it’s all over but we don’t think about that. We see the smiles of our children and we know that all that running around was more than worth it.

So what exactly is Christmas? Irving Berlin said it all when he wrote the song White Christmas. We here in the Midwest dream of snow glissening from the tree tops, writing and recieving Christmas cards, listening to the magical tinkle of bells ringing and good cheer shared by all. Wheather we live in the vast Metropolis of Chicago neighborhoods or the little village missing on the big maps, our hearts beat with the same message as Clement Moore.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.