So this is Christmas … though I guess when we say Christmas we mean much more than just the day itself; more like all the way from Black Friday (a term I dislike, a lot) to Christmas Day and slightly beyond.

It’s a pretty emotional time. Is there another time of year where we spend so much time considering Christmases past (damn you, Charles Dickens!), or the past in general? I think it’s like the entire country falls under some post-hypnotic suggestion. “When you hear your first Christmas song of the season, you will immediately start longing for a time when Christmas was … well, more Christmasy.”

Most of us probably don’t even know what that means, or at least, can’t express it. Perhaps it’s a time when we were younger, or the kids were younger, or the world was younger. It certainly can’t be from Dickens’ time. Have you seen the way the average person dressed in those days, let alone the poor? Please. Just eat your apple and chestnuts roasted on an open fire and move along.

Nah. There’s something else. Is it despite the fact that most of us have so much more than we even know, that we are constantly reminded that we need more? Need newer? Need better?

I don’t buy that argument, because most Christmas buying seems to be for someone else. The most insistent advertising message is “Makes the perfect gift.” So, I don’t see it being about what we want or what we don’t have, unless it’s the financial ability to provide “the perfect gift” for people we care about.

The irony in that — I guess we could call it the Christmas irony — is that, other than when we’re very young, how much do we really care about getting the “perfect” gift? Not very much would be my guess.

Don’t get me wrong, I like getting gifts. Like it a lot. But just show me that you put some thought into it, and that would be enough.

I suppose it’s easy to sit back, at 66 years of age and say Christmas shouldn’t be about the gifts. I have everything. Well, I should say I have everything I want, or, more importantly, I have everything I need.

I suppose one of the new giving trends is giving upgrades of things: the latest tablets, smart phones, Nooks, iPods and so on. And that makes sense. Rather than run the risk of buying someone something they don’t want, buy them something they already have, only newer. It just strikes me as a sensible gift-giving strategy.

This is the point of any Christmas column where the writer, in this case me, goes varying degrees of mushy to talk about what Christmas means to him or her. Know what I mean? And there’s nothing wrong with mushy. Frank Capra made a career out of it. The word itself is a little deprecating, so how about if we say … warm, the writer goes warm to talk about the personal meaning of Christmas.

I think … Well, it seems … One thing I … Nope. Can’t do it right now. No mush. No warmth. This has been a difficult Christmas season. I was too sick to visit friends and family. I’ve had these stomach issues for well over a year and we seem no closer to figuring it out than when we started.

But despite all that, Christmas remains a wonderful time to enjoy our friends and our families. We just need to keep ourselves centered on what is really important and we’ll be just fine. Wait, was that a little bit of mush there? A little warmth? It’s true though. Celebrate what you have and what you need, and you’ll have more than enough stuff left over to give to others.

I had real doubts about being able to be at all positive at this point in my journey. But, as always, when I really think about how fortunate we’ve been, Sheri and I, gratitude and positivity seem inevitable. Good for us, and we wish the best for you.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog,

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