It was the night before Christmas. On a street lined with the brightest red in Autumn, its inhabitants scrunched through the pale white snow. Vapour rose from their breaths, as they borne their stories home. Not excluded was the very being at the end of the sidewalk. With a navy scarf tight around his neck, he remained hunched beneath the street lamp. He was on a search – a search for the meaning of Christmas.
Perhaps somebody had the answer. Perhaps the home to his right, adorned with Christmas lights. From the window frames to the shovelled driveway, the house shone the brightest in blinks of red and green. Through the frosted window, an elderly couple sat before the flickering television. The corners of their eyes crinkled in the reminiscence of their past. As their children and grandchildren hurried to join them, the festive lights reflected in their eyes. But there was more to this picture perfect Christmas.
A tradition it was for the white-haired lovebirds to watch the reruns of Bewitched. They shared their first Christmas Eve believing in the magic of Samantha’s nose twitch. And they vowed to keep the practice till their very last. So, their family obliged – every year without fail. It was the little they could do for the beloved pair; watching, chuckling, and sipping hot cocoa till the stroke of midnight.
Why did they celebrate Christmas? Whom did they do it for? Was it for themselves, their parents, or their grandparents? In the comfort of loved ones, what did Christmas mean to them?
Rubbing his nose with a sniff, he turned to the house on his left. A dog trotted back and forth on the barren porch. Occasionally, it slipped through the dog door. But it didn’t stay inside for long, as it jumped back out and returned to its pacing. The black-furred beagle braced the chilly air in the wait for someone special. And when that someone pulled the car up the driveway, it bounced from the porch and dashed to the woman in the long, wool coat.
A smile stretched across the woman’s pale cheeks, as her dog greeted in incomprehensible joy. She patted it, then picked it up for a hug.
“What’re you doing outside?” she asked.
The dog barked and licked her face in reply. Chuckling, she returned the kiss. Done with the cold, the pair retreated to the home they’d once shared with another. Now just the two of them, they served as each other’s comfort and companion.
Did they celebrate Christmas? If so, whom did they do it for? Why did the dog linger in the bitter winter? It didn’t – it couldn’t – comprehend Christmas. Was it loyalty, love, or friendship?
The woman didn’t know, and neither did he. Having hoped the neighbouring houses could enlighten the reason for the season, he sighed in disappointment as he stepped away from the light.
As a traveller, who sought adventure and the meaning in every experience, he’d failed to uncover the simplicity of this holiday. After a year spent in ten countries, learning and embracing cultures, he’d forgotten his own. But did it matter? Was a reason necessary? Perhaps not to everyone. But for him, there had to be one.
With every step, the house he once called home neared. Unlike the Bewitched family, his parents had kept the decorations inside. At the foot of the door, he heard their voices – hollers from the living room, asking about his arrival. Just last week, they’d called and requested he returned for Christmas. For their sake, he cancelled his flight to Asia and rerouted home instead. As he inhaled a deliberate breath, he rang the doorbell.
“You’re home!” those were his mother’s first words.
“It’s good to have you back, buddy,” his father added.
He nodded. In the inability to hide his regret, having ditched the well-thought itinerary of his escapade in Japan, his sister pulled him in for a hug.
“We missed you.” Smacking him on the back, she added, “A little sacrifice won’t hurt. Try to enjoy yourself.”
“Huh,” he responded. She’d said it – the meaning of Christmas.
For the first time, it wasn’t peace, love, joy, goodwill, or even family. For the first time, it was sacrifice.
The Bewitched family sacrificed their plans for an episode they could recall from beginning to end. The dog sacrificed the warmth of its home to welcome the only person who needed its love. Once a year, they put aside their own desires for others. They mirrored the ultimate sacrifice. And that was the true meaning of Christmas: the giving of oneself for the joy of others.
In the revelation, he smiled. Indeed a little sacrifice didn’t hurt. When a greater sacrifice had been made, what was Mt Fuji in comparison. It was the giving of his presence that made Christmas, Christmas. And embracing the essence – understanding the power of sacrifice – gave his Christmas its meaning.
Bewitched, dog, and traveller were words given by Krystine Therriault. Since we’re two days away from Christmas, I ran with a Christmas story. Honestly, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. The world has seen and read many Christmas tales, and I can only hope I brought something new to the table.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. I challenge you to end this year with a little creativity in the Christmas spirit. Oh, and for all those who celebrate Christmas, a merry, merry one to you. May you find your meaning of Christmas amidst the festive cheer.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2016 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)