Perhaps the real spice in ginger is its magic, similar to the sparkle more in evidence this time of year than during other seasons. Resembling ginger’s spice, there is a warming of hearts and sometimes, even the healing of them. Of course, that’s where the magic is.
Ginger, and in particular gingerbread, has been associated with Christmas since the 17th century when gingerbread became a popular art form across Europe. It was in the 1800s when the Germans began baking and building gingerbread (lebkuchen) houses.
The popularity of these houses coincided with the publication of a Grimm’s fairytale about “Hansel and Gretel,” two children who could not resist eating a gingerbread house. Very few people ever have, young or old.
Gingerbread houses are still associated with the holidays, a remembrance of one way the magic is celebrated. After all, gingerbread houses have their own kind of magic, rather like the hearts of children in any season but during Christmas, well….
You can see it in their eyes every day of the season, reflected in the soft glow of colored lights, mirrored in the round, red baubles hanging from the branch of a Christmas tree.
If you are fortunate enough to catch a child’s image in a bulb, you might also look more closely into what the ornament reveals for you. It is not as if the magic excludes.
It is as if we are once again that child in stolen moments wondering just what awaits us. Perhaps wishing for a certain gift or just being dazzled by the sparkle of everywhere we look. The scent of the freshly cut tree, an aroma reserved for one time of year only.
As an adult I may be mostly Buddhist but I delight in remembering the Christmases of holiday seasons past. Also, I am almost child-like in enjoying the wonders of this giving season, be it gingerbread houses or their creators with their works in progress.
For me, there is no greater love than in the eyes of these two children, my great-niece and great-nephew. In their home, they carry on their family tradition of celebrating Christmas. They share it with me—some 2,000 miles away—courtesy of their grandmother’s love—and her camera.
And yes, there is my naïve hope that the heart of the giving season—the magic that the heart of a child knows—will stay as the heart of the world this year and not be boxed up with the shiny bulbs and colored lights.
We can hold onto the spirit of the season—there is no need to keep it locked away for another year—its spice will sustain us, heal us like the ginger so necessary for a gingerbread house.
The spirit opens our hearts in ways we find difficult—even impossible–during other seasons. Increasingly, we are weary of the shininess of the season yet we thrill to the glow of colored lights, imagining lives behind windows in gingerbread houses, as if magic only lived in the imagination.
It does not. It lives within our hearts.
Any child can remind us on any day. It is for us to return to a moment in our lives–maybe it’s Christmas or maybe it’s not–when we believed in magic, the spice that heals.