Archived Story

Finding the holiday spirit

Published 11:06pm Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I may not celebrate the Christmas holiday, but I’ve got to say, I love the spirit. I love everything bathed in twinkle lights. I love the idea of piles of wrapped up presents and kids who can’t wait to get to them. It’s not my holiday but it’s fun to watch other people get their joy. I love staying in my pajamas and watching “A Christmas Story” all day long. I love (most of) the music. The Nat King Cole, the Ella Fitzgerald, the classics like the one with the Charlie Brown kids and the tasteful new classics, which are too many too list. But you can hop on over to our Facebook page for Third Coast Living to find a playlist of awesome songs to bring the festive to your holiday, if you’re interested.

I like to get lost in the holidays, but this year the holidays seem a little lost in the shuffle, lost in the struggle to get presents under the tree and under budget, of facing a new year of uncertainty, of a long, torturous year of hard times having come to an end.

Last week I tried to find the spirit at the epicenter of it all — Rockefeller Center. Where the tree usually stands taller than any skyscraper and decorations are found around every corner: larger than life nutcrackers, and glistening red ornaments, twinkle lights and even a few menorahs still peeking out from storefront and residential windows.

It wasn’t there.

What was there, were large crowds of hungry tourists looking for entertainment, which loomed louder and larger than the tree itself. They pushed against police officers trying to coordinate foot and vehicle traffic. They poured into retail stores and poured out a couple of shopping bags later, completely oblivious to the fact that New York City turns blue when the sun slips out of eyesight and trees seem to twinkle light up like magic when you’re not even looking.

I looked for it in between travels at the airport. Because I love airports. I love the space between where you are and where you’re going. When you can’t wait to get to the people who are waiting for you and back to the people who will welcome you home.

It wasn’t there either.

What was there was one woman who made a spectacle of herself in front of her young daughter when she missed her flight to Appleton, Wis., insulting the airline clerk and banging on airport windows in the vain hope that a pilot would notice her and reopen the security doors to let her in. People stared. And it was sad to watch her storm off, imagining her daughter doing the same one day, when she is older and under less tactful impressions.

I looked for the holiday spirit everywhere. I shoved my earbuds back into my ears and replayed my holiday playlist, I sauntered through department stores and spent money frivolously. I looked back through my pictures of the holiday scene around my favorite city in the world. I wrapped presents.

Nowhere to be found.

Until I stopped looking. And that’s when I realized that the holidays are in the twinkle lights nobody notices but you, on a street bathed in blue in the greatest city in the world. They’re in the people who are waiting to welcome you back home just before everything stops for a couple of days.

The holidays are found in the moments that define the scene around them. In the man who has been married to his wife for nearly 48 years, who, on a wintery day just a couple days before Christmas, offers his arm to her so she doesn’t slip on the ice, as they head off down the street in a small town in Middle America.

They are in young people who get up for someone older than them on the subway and offer their seat. In strangers who hold open a door, or smile when you pass their way. They’re in office parties and rounds of secret santa.

The holidays are in doing good for others. So do good. Go make dinner possible for a friend or a stranger. Wrap an extra present. Do something nice. They’re in having a place to go this Friday night and Saturday morning.

They are anywhere you want them to be.

Happy holidays.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for Leader Publications. Reach her at

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