William Glackens, "Yuletide Revels." Photo: Brooklyn Museum

I was not born to be cool. I was born to be delighted, and what a glorious destiny it is.

Many, many things please me. So often I am like a cat, transfixed and purring before a piece of string. One of the things I love best is Christmas. I don’t sneer when I hear “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” I hum. Just yesterday, at the Hallmark store on Montague Street in the great borough of Brooklyn, I caught myself swinging and swaying to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

I love Christmas brazenly, and without apology. I love the lights, the music, the decorations, the sending and receiving of cards, the exchange of presents. I love the food.  I love the eggnog. I love the very idea of a season set aside for joy. I realize that this takes me out of the class the sophisticated, “in-the-know,” people too intelligent to fall for twinkling lights and goodwill toward men. As I’ve confessed, I’m not cool, and it is at Christmas time that the scope, depth, and breadth of this “uncoolness” is manifested with the greatest intensity.

Please don’t take this as a plea for intervention by the Sophistinistas. I don’t want to be saved from my hokeyness. You see, I realize that if I were to be cool, I would of necessity have to be bored with everything, superior to everything, and would be expected to deploy my considerable powers of snark and irony at every social gathering.  What’s more, I would have to work myself into a rage at the sight of tinsel, like all right-thinking intellectuals. It all seems like too much of an exhausting bore to me. It is so much easier to make the best of things and enjoy life’s occasional spangly charms.

Am I mistaken, or does it take wisdom and courage truly to enjoy life—wisdom to see and courage to grasp? Isn’t the secret a seizing and a sharing of those things that go unnoticed in the clamor of the world? I am reminded of the still, small voice described in the story of Elijah the prophet. Hiding in a cave, waiting to hear from God, he first heard a great and strong wind, but God was not there. The wind was followed by an earthquake, and the earthquake was followed by a fire, but God was still not there. But then Elijah heard a still, small voice and knew then that he was in God’s presence. He heard God because he was listening for Him and did not despise the tininess of the manifestation.

Striving to hear might just be one of the highest callings in life. Shouldn’t we make ourselves available to grace and to joy when they come disguised as trivialities? In my life, they have often come disguised as the thought and love that go into a gift, true friends sitting around a table singing carols, and the hush and stillness of New York after midnight mass, the sound of ancient songs of adoration still resonating all around.

This Christmas, I want to delight!

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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  • Val Myteberi June 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Olga, you add warmth to the beauty of Christmas. Even though I’m leaving this comment in June, I’m glad to have read your piece as it does bring joy all year around. I hope to connect and see you someday soon.


  • Donna Hoff December 28, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Ah Olga, how wonderful to know I’m not alone in being “uncool” but have a lovely group of women who feel as I do! How much happier to live life in wonder and gratitude for every small everyday miracle as well as the “once a year” extravaganzas. Aren’t we all happier and more content for enjoying each day rather than being “sophisticatedly” bored with it! I’m late in wishing you this, but Merry Christmas and I hope we all experience a joyous and wonderous 2011!

  • Alex MacAaron December 26, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Thank you. And, you are in good company, Olga. “Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand”… Theodor Seuss Geisel

  • Beverly Schwartz December 24, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Merry Christmas to you, too, Olga … and what a lovely column! May you and all of us continue always to “take joy.”