What is it about Christmas that elicits heavy dread when it used to inspire boundless wonder? When I was little I used to stay up all night straining to hear reindeer pitter-pattering on our roof or the tell-tale jingling of bells on Santa's sleigh. Upon running downstairs each morning I bee-lined for the now empty plate of chocolate chip cookies I left out the night before, eager to see of Santa left me a note to accompany his gifts. The presents were great, don't get me wrong, but I think I always suspected that my parents were behind the gifts (Santa and my parents using the same wrapping paper?? As if.). I nonetheless insisted on believing in Santa Claus for years because I wanted to (and probably still do) believe in magic. I didn't care if Santa brought me the exact Polly Pockets I wanted, I just wanted him to exist as some sort of tangible proof that there are benevolent and powerful forces forever watching over me. As I've aged I have ceased to believe in Santa Claus, but my desire for happy magic remains. Over the past two years, as I watched the terrible realities that have perhaps always festered around us seem to climax, I've found myself clinging to a secret hope that something (or someone) with real power (supernatural or otherwise) will tell me that they've got our backs. Christmas now is just a reminder that these enchanted assurances probably do not exist, and that relying upon them to keep me happy and hopeful is perhaps me just clinging to the uncomplicated joy I felt as a child (lucky me!!!). So I guess the dread I feel now is the knowledge that, rather than being able to put my trust in Santa Claus et al. to bring joy and wonder into my life, I have to find a way to engineer them for myself. The task seems more and more daunting with every news headline and cloudy sky. Then someday, if I'm fortunate, it'll be my task to inspire magical wonder in my own kids, all with the knowledge that as they grow up and learn the truth that we might very well be alone in the mud they might also find themselves drinking alone in the corner on Christmas, longing for years past and fantasies unfulfilled. Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you've received some love today, and I hope you're able to find something to wonder at in even the greyest of places.