CHRISTMAS REALLY?

It was a snowy Christmas Eve - not usual for New York on this date; my passport and work permit for Canada had come through; I had nothing in particular to do this night but walk down Fifth Avenue and see the sights. All the streetlight posts were decorated in holiday motifs; the light dusting of snow gave the Avenue just the right touch of a glittering fairyland.

I walked past F.A.O. Schwarz - the millionaires' Santa Claus shop with six foot giraffes, a pre-fab tree house and other toys priced above the reach of most wage earners, past Tiffany with their small showcase window ablaze with gift trinkets of gold and precious jewels, past Saks boasting a choir of gnomes perched along the cornice above the windows piping Christmas carols from their mouths, past Bonwit's and Sloan, with windows trumpeting the window trimmers' art in hidden lighting and unique props featuring French couturier fashions in ermine and satin - each window vying to outdo the next in dazzling splendor.

There were few people on the sidewalks and fewer cars in the streets - probably home wrapping presents or trimming their trees. Here was a multi-million dollar spectacle put on just for me! Crossing Fifth I went down the Rockefeller Center alley lined with poinsettias and twinkling colored lights leading to the hundred-foot decorated Norwegian pine standing in all its glory behind the skating rink. The City was so quiet that I could hear the "crunch-crunch" of steel blades cutting the ice as a solitary pair of skaters danced figure eights. I turned quickly to retain this wonderful Technicolor image in my mind's eye. The doors of St. Patrick Cathedral's doors were wide open, the light poured down the white snow covered stairs onto the street. Above the sea of parishioners' heads I could see the distant altar radiant with objects of silver and alabaster that rose out of sight above my vision.

Walking back up Fifth Avenue, my eyes straight ahead - I didn't under-stand why would all these beautiful sights disturb me? Disturbed because I was alone and had no one to share my feelings or the sights that I had seen or was it my old riddle with new words? If God is really love and beauty interwoven in one fabric, and I have been walking tonight amidst many of its manifestations, then am I not also touched by God? But if all of this is crass commercialism, man-made beauty motivated solely by greed to attract consumers, then why is my soul stirred? Does the spirit of good will and selflessness permeate man's mind the entire year, only for these few days, or not at all? Is this love - unmistakable at Christmas time, merely a facade because one's peers expect it, and like Scrooge - be ostracized if one believed it was all Humbug; or did it serve some purpose of God to remind his believers that His hand can be touched? Plunged in a labyrinth of thought for which I had no answers, I boarded the next bus for home.

Taken from the memoir "Never Climbed His Mountain - Second Edition"

By Julian Gladstone