Veronica, Thomas and assorted friends gather to watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

I will start, aside from wishing Merry Christmas (or whatever your choice of holiday is) to everyone, by quoting two different things I wrote in my piece on Christmas Eve on Sesame Street five years ago.

The first is “I have no religious feelings centering around Christmas.  I love Christmas for the feeling of good cheer and happiness that tend to abound.  The two songs “True Blue Miracle” and “Keep Christmas With You” both center around those notions.”  That is the explanation for the title.

The second is “Most of all this special works because it is a reminder that what I love about Christmas is the feeling in the air (and it doesn’t think Christmas is the only holiday – there is a nice Chanukah greeting for Mr. Hooper), that we can all love each other, that we can find peace on earth.  It makes me think of my e-mail signature, a quote from RFK: “But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”  That is what I love about Christmas.  And Sesame Street was always like that – always a reminder that we should be nice to each other, that life is so much better that way.”

This comes back, in a sense to something Veronica said last night, which was “Die Hard is good but I need people to be done claiming it’s the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”  She’s right, of course.  Die Hard is a great film but just because it takes place at Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas film.  And besides, It’s a Wonderful Life is the greatest Christmas movie ever made.  It’s not just because it’s brilliant and made with far greater directing, writing and especially acting than any other film set at Christmas but also because it understands Christmas.  It understands that the holiday is not about Santa or even about Christ.  It’s about reminding yourself that life can be good, no matter what it has brought you (like say cancer, which I am happily free of – my oncologist last week told me I’m the healthiest person he’ll see this month), that people can be good no matter what you might see in the actions of those at the top.  It’s a reminder that keeping Christmas with you, like the song suggests, is not about presents or religion but about being good to people.

I have been especially reminded of that lately, namely because of two of the most important parts of my childhood – Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ NeighborhoodSesame Street had a wonderful 50th anniversary celebration last month that seemed to bring back every person and muppet who had ever been part of the show (it was especially pleasing to see host Joseph Gordon-Levitt confuse Don Music and Guy Smiley and for Veronica it was especially pleasing to see host Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and I am thankful that Caroll Spinney made it to the celebration (you can actually see him out of costume among all the multitudes singing “Sing” at the end of the celebration) before he died earlier this month.  There are few things in life as moving to watch as the episode where Spinney, as Big Bird, tries to understand that Mr. Hooper has died.

For Mr. Rogers, of course, there is a A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a very good film with a very good performance from Tom Hanks.  The movie was a reminder that what Mr. Rogers taught us was that we should all be kind to each other and that everyone matters.  There’s a wonderful moment in the film (which I’m quoting from memory) where the main character asks Rogers’ wife “What’s it like being married to a living saint?”  She counters that they don’t like him being called that because it implies that what he does isn’t human and can’t be done by other people.  And she’s right.  Fred Rogers wasn’t a saint.  He was a very good, very kind person who tried to teach children that emotions were okay and it was good to be in touch with them and in the end the world is better when we are kind to each other.  In essence, he kept Christmas with him.

And I will end this Christmas post ironically by repurposing a quote from our greatest living Jewish playwright because, even though it’s about AIDS, the notion of it fits what I believe is the true point of the spirit of Christmas:

“The world only spins forward.  We will be citizens.  The time has come.  Bye now.  You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.  And I bless you: More Life.  The Great Work Begins.”