Photo by Travis Swicegood, via Flickr

I’ve been listening to a radio station that’s playing a good number of the pop and rock versions of Christmas carols, the kind that were all the rage on the AM dial in late ‘50s and early ‘60s. There is something innocent about these Cold War-era songs. Bing Crosby’s hit, “Do You Hear What I Hear,” was written in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. At Christmas, we could carol a crisis away.

Of course, when not listening to these songs recently I’m covered in contemporary tales of armed schoolhouses and political cliffs of different kinds. So maybe when I go back to the radio, I’m looking again for a magic charm. When you hear what I hear, be gone evil spirits.

Ho Ho Ho.

This will be the first post-Mayan-Apocalypse Christmas. There are still many skeptics poking fun at the end-of-the-world predictions. I’m not so certain they were wrong.

For instance, if theories of the multiverse hold water, every quantum decision branches off into another universe. What happens, then, when the world collectively loses its mind? Do we all trip off into another world, the world we once knew effectively coming to an ignoble end?

It could be. Where’s Alice when we need her?

We live just south of the river in Austin, near Zilker Park. The city, with a little help from corporate sponsors, has revived an Austin tradition called the Trail of Lights. We walked the trail Saturday night. It’s kind of a lovely scene, all kinds of people marching along past one Christmas display or another. Horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs and pedestrians crowd the main street that leads to the trail. The smells of marijuana, horse droppings, fried food and beer fill the air. Austin’s still weird.

We were a little impatient with the crowd, which was shoulder-to-shoulder and toe-to-heel. The displays are intended for little children, as they should be. I have to wonder, though, what Rudolph really thinks of the Little Mermaid. A good number of the displays have corporate sponsors, making it something of a Trail of Brands. There was one sponsored by an outfit called “Retail Me Not.” I thought, good for them, put something of the old spirit of peace, love and charity back into Christmas. Turns out, of course, that it’s a coupon outfit. Ho Ho Ho.

None of this defeats my holiday spirit though. I wonder why.

Whatever one’s spiritual background, this is the time of year when things slow down. Committed shoppers might disagree with that. But it’s true, generally. By Christmas Eve, the streets will grow quieter. The rat race (I still like that term) gives way to light-footed reindeer on the roof.

The Christmas-to-New Year week is a time I get to spend with many close friends, some from far away. I’m very lucky in this. One way or another I’ve managed to take that week off, no matter what political or business endeavor I was engaged in.

We go out to West Texas in the Big Bend region. Many will camp near the Rio Grande. Others gather in Marathon, the last desert town before you head south into Big Bend National Park.

I’m unable to pass through the Christmas season without reliving all those memories of this time of year, from my early childhood on. Once again, I’ve been lucky. All those memories are good.

This is a time to celebrate our dependence on one another and our responsibility to one another. It is a collective winter celebration that reminds us we don’t pass through this world alone.

That leads me back to the question of just which world this is after all. It does seem crazier than the one we left behind. But I’m glad we brought these winter traditions with us. I just wish we’d thought to bring winter as well. Because here in Austin, it’s still rather muggy and warm.

Lift a glass to the good times folks. And notice that we never toast alone. Peace.

Photo by Travis Swicegood under Creative Commons license.