For millions of children around the world (and perhaps an equal number of adults), today is a day of incredible anticipation. For tomorrow, they will wake up uncontrollably consumed by the excitement that comes with presents nestled under and around the Christmas tree.
The very nature of any “eve” is one of anticipation and even anxiety. As the great Tom Petty once sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.”
Its meaning today is simply “the day or period of time before an event or occasion.” But the word’s Hebrew origin is much more evocative of what is to come. “To breath” or “to live” suggests that “eve” is the very precursor to of our being.
I try to imagine what my mother felt like on Christmas Eve, 1968. The year had been one calamity one after another. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had both been assassinated. Vietnam had escalated. There were riots in the streets. In this context, already struggling to raise two children on her own, she was now expecting a third.
I can only guess that she felt both excitement and fear. A blind belief that things could only get better and a nagging feeling that perhaps they would not.
The next morning, she watched her oldest son rejoice in seeing his new train set chug around the tree while her two-year-old daughter feverishly tore wrapping paper from one present after another.
Shortly thereafter, she brought me into this world. To say it was a difficult birth would be an understatement, as I was nearly twelve pounds and breech.
This year is not unlike 1968, as much anxiety and anticipation mark the eve of this holiday.
It would seem appropriate to take inspiration from the advice that I assume my mother heard while in labor that morning.
Reminding us to breathe, especially during the difficult times.
Remembering to offer words of encouragement when someone is struggling, "You're doing great, you're almost there."
And of course, the solace that comes when our labor is done and we have brought new life into our troubled, beautiful world.