Getting in the Mood

Out of the many moods of Christmas, which one will jump-start us into the spirit of the season? I might have found mine.

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It’s difficult trying to gin up any enthusiasm remotely acceptable for a Christmas mood. It has to happen on its own. The frenetic crush of mosh-pits crowds on Black Friday and Cyber Monday don’t do it. It’s like drumming up excitement for a root canal. It has to happen, just not today.

What’s a ‘mood’ but a subjective state of mind, a predominant emotion that can grab us anywhere, anytime. You feel it when one’s coming on. It’s best when it shows up serendipitously, like the unannounced advent of an old friend, no preface or stimulus, something that just happens. Moods planned in advance are duds.

Ok, so we had a mood yesterday. What good is it for today? It’s nothing now but a memory, whether pleasant or unpleasant. We can take it out, dust it off, laugh or cry, but it’s as cold as a man’s hand when the romance has ended. It’s today’s miracle that sets the mood. We have to wait for it.

When does it start, this ‘getting in the mood’ for Christmas? What sets it in motion? For root canals, the impetus is pain. For Christmas, which can be analogous in some ways, it’s usually ‘The Tree’ that fires it up.

This year a tinge of excitement begins the day after Thanksgiving in our house when someone says, “The trees are here, big ones, Frazier furs; snow still clings to the branches.”  The Christmas mood yawns.

Meanwhile, the outside thermometer hovers near 75 degrees. Does this do anything for your Christmas mood? No matter—it was bound to happen, not if but when. Go get the tree.

There’re few things less anticipatory than getting a Christmas tree a month beforehand. But it’s the beginning of ‘getting in the mood.’ Actually, it’s the beginning of getting in a lot of moods, moods that run a vast array of moods, moods that have spawned many bankruptcies and not a few divorces.

The tree should get more credit for mood creation than it’s been given. Sticker-shock can send a shudder down anyone’s spine that even a moribund wallet can feel. We cringe, realizing this is only the beginning of shakedowns. The vault of a meager Christmas budget is about to be pillaged and expose how shallow our ‘mood of generosity’ is and how it strangely mirrors the ‘mood of Scrooge.’

Many good moods are associated with a Christmas tree. But they come later, not earlier. First it’s essential to survive the ordeal of buying and erecting the sacrificial sapling and enduring what might be euphemistically labeled the ‘familial debate mood.’

But this too passes, and soon the tree stands tall and regal, the house scented like potpourri from a fresh forest. Ok, so it happens to be a bit crooked that produces a temporary mood-swing of ‘mild disgust?’ It soon vanishes after a few mugs of highly-spiked egg nog. While exclamations of “Best tree ever” don’t mitigate the flaw, but they do evoke a peaceful mood best known as ‘relief.’

The next order of business is to clothe the naked sacrifice with lights. This toil provokes not a ‘mood of love’ but one akin to forced labor. Soon tiny white lights drip from every branch and radiate like miniature stars. Decorative ornaments complete the process to a ‘mood of smiles and nods.’

When our angel takes her place atop the tree the job concludes. I climb the ladder in a ‘mood of trepidation,’ imagining what can happen to old men climbing ladders. The angel soon sits high in her resplendent glory overlooking our handiwork below.

As I retreat to the safety of a horizontal surface a tune strangely enters my mind. It’s a familiar tune:

 “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plain; and the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains.” Something stirs in my soul. Is this the beginning of getting in the Christmas mood?

There’s something magical about the moods of Christmas that can soften the stingiest soul and set smiles on the sourest faces. Maybe this is the miracle of Christmas after all.


Bud Hearn

December 10, 2021