A day or two ago I hand-delivered Christmas cards to all of the homes in our neighbourhood. Bringing handmade cards to the homes of our neighbours was a project that I started a few years ago with my youngest daughter, Sophie. At the time that we began this Yuletide event, we barely knew even one-quarter of those who lived around us. That seemed shameful so we set about to begin the process of change by the creation of a handmade craft by Sophie to be placed with a Christmas card from our whole family. To top it all off, we decorate the outside of the envelope with some seasonal scenes. Then, out into the snow we go.
For three years, we have trudged through the snowy streets and walkways of our neighbourhood, delivering good cheer from our home to theirs. Initially, our neighbours were hesitant to respond or even acknowledge our cards and craft. One man even walked all the way down our street, knocked on our door and then asked if he had been given this card by mistake because he didn’t know us. But, as time went on, our small act of creativity has become a tradition that our neighbours look forward to. Some deliver cards of their own to our home and many others actually give us gifts, many of which are homemade (just like Sophie’s craft was). Of the cards we get back from our neighbours, all contain greetings for Sophie and words of appreciation to her for her efforts to brighten their homes with a piece of seasonal art.
So, two days ago, I stepped out into the wintery world that our neighbourhood had become and made my rounds. The morning air was crisp but not unbearably cold. I carried my gloves, along with a basket of colourful cards and crafts. My boots crunched in the snow. Other than that crunching noise, the whole street was still. I was the only person out in the snow. Up walkways and down driveways I went, sliding our masterpieces into mail slots, dropping them into black or brass mailboxes. Nobody stirred. Even the dogs held their tongues. There is something magical about being out in freshly fallen snow, with cards in tow at Christmas time.
The magic of being out in the snow has been the subject of many children’s picture books, none better than Raymond Briggs’ 1982 classic wordless book, The Snowman. This book follows a day in the life of a young boy and a snowman who has come to life. The boy and his snow friend go to many places and have many adventures over the course of their own magical day. But, in the end, the snowman melts and dies, leaving the boy with cherished memories of a magical day. It is easy to draw conclusions about a story that ends with the death of one of the main characters. But The Snowman is far from dour. It is uplifting and inspirational, actually. Life is meant to be lived in real time and experienced first hand. So, step away from your screens for a while and go outside. Breath in the air. Feel the sun on your skin. Watch your words curl to the sky in slender strands of language and meaning. Live.
The Snowman was made into a feature film. The film was scored by a man named Howard Blake. As part of the film’s soundtrack, a song was written called “Walking In The Air”. The lyrics to this song were originally sung by a choirboy from St. Paul’s Cathedral named Peter Auty. Auty’s solo voice reached the highest of musical scales, which was important, because his words were eventually paired on screen with the actions of the snowman and the boy when it came their turn to fly through the air. “Walking In The Air” became a Top Ten hit in the UK. The movie has been played on the BBC every year since its debut and remains an integral part of the holiday culture in England.
Traditions help us to keep our memories safe for when we need them most. These times of ours may still be fraught with danger from diseases, greed and violence but every once in a while, we are gifted with the chance to forget about it all. It’s a magic formula made up of softly falling snow that muffles the noisy aspects of our world, a moist tongue for catching the plumpest flakes as they fall and boots that were designed for crunching as you move. There is something wonderful and fresh about newly fallen snow. Come on, everybody. Power down your screens. Let’s go out and play. The memories are yours for the taking.
The link to the official website for the character of The Snowman can be found here.