I love the quiet hush Christmas has.  Not the weeks leading up to it, with all their insane, materialistic shopping frenzy and stress, but Christmas day itself.

hush 1It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in the world, or who you ask about it: if it’s a country which celebrates Christmas, the stories are the same. Nearly all the shops and markets are closed.  The streets are empty and quiet.  Gifts are opened, families gather around tables laden with food.  Everyone eats too much and wants to nap.  6 extra cars crowd together in front of abuela’s house.  Cousins and siblings play together in the yard.  New toys are tested out and shown off.

And then comes my favorite part of the day.  Late afternoon, as the shadows lengthen and the day grows short, I go for a walk.  It’s mostly just to get out of the house, to stretch my legs and amble off a little of that food.  That’s when you notice the quiet, though.  That’s the first time you really have a moment to enjoy the uncrowded streets, the parks devoid of loud visitors, street lights that change from red to green and back again without ever a car passing beneath.  You can glance into windows as you walk and see families still gathered, tables still full, trees still glittering with lights, and feel a touch of the sublime as you realize that half the planet has been doing the exact same thing today.  It’s the sweetest of revelations to know that, all over the world, trees in the exact same shape have been brought inside and put up, decorated with tinsel and lights, Santas and reindeer and bells and bows, in colors of red and green, silver and gold, and that, all over the world, families are gathering near those trees doing the same things: talking, napping, playing games, watching a favorite holiday movie.

Regardless of religiosity, there’s something about Christmas day that unifies and transcends.  Anywhere it’s celebrated can feel like home, anyone you celebrate it with can feel like family.

hush 2This Christmas, even though I spent the day in a hostel, far from home, surrounded by people who, just days before, were strangers, it still felt like Christmas.  We ate together, and ate too much.  We talked and laughed and swapped stories.  We took naps.  We played games.  And, late in the afternoon, a few of us slipped out the door of our temporary home and took a walk, enjoying the empty streets and quiet parks of our current city.  And the hush still felt the same.