Raul Freitas

A Toast

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For the many of us that actually celebrate this time of the year, Christmas, whether we realize it or not, is a pretty personal experience. I think it extends far beyond the commemoration of a religious event; for business it ranks among the most important times of the year, with piles of money exchanging hands, and for the devout, it’s obviously a time that highlights their faith. For me it continues the path of adding to the memories of great gatherings and immense joy and laughter. Let’s face it, any excuse for a party, right? But Christmas is a cut above. My recollections, (and they might be somewhat rose-coloured, but I don’t care), are of genuine smiles, and thinking to myself that people are just happier and more caring and affectionate, to say nothing of the children!

To witness their expressions as they gaze at the tree, itself all decked out with shiny ornaments, lights and tinsel. The family, which mainly gathered only at this time, was electric, feeding off each other without even realizing it.
I loved arriving home from my part-time job at Radio Shack, on Christmas Eve, a rose for each of the ladies present in hand. It was a tiny tradition of my own, a showing of my own appreciation and happiness for having everyone together. Nothing made me happier than to see my extended family laughing it up around the dinner table. My uncles teasing the kids, who anxiously waited for midnight to drop, so they could dive into the mountain of gifts piled under and around the tree in our basement. Of course, 10:30 was usually the longest we ever waited to give the green light. The feast at the table, the jokes, the teasing of grandma who always followed the downing of a Port with a grimace, but never said no to a little more. I’ll never forget those days. They’re some of my fondest and most cherished memories. With the inevitable passing of time comes the equally inevitable morphing of traditions. People grow, and family dynamics change, but they don’t end, they just become new versions of the same theme. When we had kids of our own, the experience was similar, but heightened. Christmas became even more electric. My wife and I would wrap presents in odd boxes so they would have no clue as to the contents of their many gifts. Small gifts in large boxes, meaningless odds and ends rattling in the packages in order to throw them off the scent. It was all great fun simply because of this special time of year.

The kids are now adults and the holiday conversation, (equally exciting), is what’s to be cooked and baked for us to enjoy, along with the one grandma that is left to enjoy it with. My 23-year-old daughter looks forward to being the official Christmas decorator of our home. She takes great pride in highlighting all the rooms with decorations gathered over the years.

So, though the dynamic has evolved over the decades, some people having gone while other new ones have joined, it continues to be about family and friends. Let’s not forget a couple of very important aspects of this time of year; the particular joy from helping whoever may need it, and also, for those of us who will be happily celebrating in comfort with our loved ones, to remember how lucky we actually are, compared to many who find themselves in situations of hardship. Let’s remember to raise a glass in honour of all our equals throughout the world.
Saúde!

Fiquem bem.

Raul Freitas/MS

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