Christmas has come, and while I suppose it is still Christmas season for those that follow the 12 day pattern, the decorations are coming down all around. It was a good Christmas for many reasons. Any opportunity to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord is always good. For my wife and family, it was time well-spent – in three different states for us.

Beyond the spiritual joys of the season, great gifts were enjoyed, which I would recommend to anyone. My wife and I enjoyed a family get-together last week at this time at her Uncle & aunt’s new Inn/ Lodge on a mountain ridge near Gatlinburg, TN. It’s called the Quail Ridge Inn and I highly recommend it since it’s open for business and brand new.

Good wine, for us at least, is always a great gift. We received two bottles that we’ll try out in the new year. Horton Vineyard in Virginia’s Chardonnay and McWilliams Vineyard in Australia’s Merlot.

Also, completing our Lord of the Rings collection, I got the extended version of the Return of the King DVD. At nearly an hour longer in length and with 6 hours of documentaries including excellent background on Tolkien’s literary heritage and the making of the movie, it’s a keeper. It’s too bad that the Scouring of the Shire was not filmed, but the three movies are as good a representation of the book as is possible.

A nice treat was also the DVD set of old Looney Tunes cartoons. Completely childish I know, but they are art in their own way and are still funny 50 years after creation. They make a nice blend of Technicolor and the American/ Andrew Jackson view of the world – leave us alone or we’ll make you wish you never saw us – or at least that is how I see Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner.

I bought for my brother a book by the humorous commentator of all things pop-culture, James Lileks, called the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Lileks does as good a job as anyone I know of showing the vapidity of modernity and pop-culture in a laugh out loud fashion. I like to call him the family man’s Lewis Grizzard.

The wife and I enjoyed a day last week, using the year pass that we gave each other last Christmas, at the incomparable Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. We loved visiting the estate several times this year and find it a beautiful place, but after a few trips, the house takes on a creepy air of its excessive beauty.

Historic Brattonsville, in York County, South Carolina, has an annual Christmas tour. It’s a historic village with excellent restorations of the colonial-era buildings. The movie The Patriot was filmed on site. The Christmas tour involves telling the story of the Scot-Irish Presbyterian Bratton family from the 1770’s to the 1850’s, along with German immigrants and slaves and how Christmas impacted them. It was as well-done a historical presentation as I have seen. Visitors went from house to house, with paths lit by gas lanterns, and reinactors acted out how Christmas was celebrated in their time period and culture. I recommend that anyone who can, view their Christmas candle-light tour. Actors portraying ministers, slaves, farmers, etcl were allowed to speak in as close to their voice as possible.

Christmas was and is always for me deeply profound. It can be silly, serious, crass, spiritual and materialistic. It is good we tell ourselves every year of the coming of Christ. I’m convinced that if we didn’t, it would be harder to believe that it already is. I love the line in the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe that describes the time of the White Witch – always winter and never Christmas. That says a lot in the negative

Here is wishing to all a healthy joy for the truths of Christmas throughout 2005.