Saturday, December 12

Christmas, Warts and Magic

by Carol Ross

“Christmas…is not a date. It is a state of mind.” I stuck this quote by Mary Ellen Chase to the edge of my computer back in July. I know what you’re thinking and I agree - July is too early to be thinking about Christmas. But I had to think about Christmas back in July. I had a novella to write for A Heartwarming Christmas boxed set. Panic was beginning to set in. And, being honest here, I wasn’t feeling it. I love summer. I love to be outside. All I wanted to do in July was be outside.

I’ve never had a problem writing other seasons in any season. But there’s something special about Christmas. I needed to capture the feeling. I’d already watched my favorite Christmas movies; Elf, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story. It wasn’t working. Not even Chevy Chase stringing Christmas lights or Cousin Eddie breaking the candle carousel could motivate me. I tried listening to some holiday music. But as I gazed longingly out my window at the green trees and the birds frolicking in the birdbath, I felt as though Bing Crosby was taunting me. Daring me to dream of a white Christmas when all I was dreaming about was a hike through the wildflowers in the Cascade Mountains.

This didn’t even help.

Out of desperation, I started searching online. Googling all things Christmas, “snow covered cabin,” “Christmas baking,”  “how to not be a scrooge,” etc. That’s when I stumbled on this quote and it hit me like a snowball to the head. Christmas really is a state of mind. I headed for my photos. Family photos of Christmas pasts. As memories began to flow through me, I laughed, smiled, fired up Miracle on 34th Street and began to take notes as I reminisced.

Were any of those Holidays perfect? No. But every single one has stuck with me for one reason or another. In my family the remembrance is often of an occurrence that, while experiencing it, you never dream you’ll laugh about later. Like the time the oven was accidentally turned off and the prime rib was three hours late. Or the year everyone except Papa had a vicious flu and gifts weren’t opened until the 27th. One Christmas our new kittens climbed the tree, tipped it over, and broke half the ornaments. Others were batted around the house, only to be discovered hidden under appliances and furniture for months to come. And one of the worst holidays I can recall has its own name because it was so awful: The Year Without Pie. The pumpkin pies were baked without sugar. (I almost cried. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods. I’ve lobbied to have it made into its own food group, an essential one, but for some reason I can’t seem to build the momentum. Who’s with me?!)

Pumpkin Pie: The fifth food group. Has a nice ring to it, I think.

Anyway, we are so filled with hopes, dreams, plans, and expectations this time of year. The best tree, the perfect gift, the most delicious meal, the entire family gathered together. But then, as it is wont to do, life happens. Imperfections, mishaps and tragedies crop up and try to ruin the season, the day. These are Christmas warts. They appear unexpectedly, often accompanied by frustration, disappointment and tears. But then... Then the magic happens. Christmas Eve is the tonic. Christmas Day is the cure. The warts are transformed as the charm, the fun, and the unbridled wonder of it all fills our hearts. They become like hard-won scars worthy of our boasting, treasured stories to tell, joy-filled recollections. Memories.

This revelation was all I needed to get me into a Christmas state of mind. Two people with high expectations for the perfect Christmas naturally followed.  Ben and Andrea formed in my mind like friends I’d known forever. A shared goal of trying to find Christmas Town’s old fire bell, albeit for different reasons, became the basis for both of them to finally have a perfect Christmas. But, as we all know, expectations and reality rarely meet in quite the way we hope. Ben and Andrea’s journey in The Christmas Bell is no exception. It’s fraught with disappointments, setbacks, frustration, and regrets. Which just makes their holiday, their happy ending, that much sweeter.  Warts begone! Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Bell novella is available as part of A Heartwarming Christmas boxed set.

Carol Ross is the author of three books for the Seasons of Alaska series for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. She lives with her husband and one loveable miscreant of a dachshund in a small town in Washington close to both the ocean and the mountains.  She adores the Pacific Northwest because it provides her with endless opportunities for the activities she loves—hiking, running, skiing, and spending time outdoors. For a complete list of her books, social media links, giveaways, and other fun stuff stop by and visit her new website:


  1. Thanks for visiting, Carol. I love your Alaska stories!

    1. Thank you, Liz. It's great to be here. Alaska is such a fun place to write about. I get the biggest kick out of people telling me they'd like to live in Rankins.

  2. Thank you for having me today, Lovely Word Wrangler Ladies! I hope everyone has some fun plans for this Holiday Season weekend.

  3. I know your pain of trying to get in the Christmas mood last July. :=) And I love this time of the year. I love the crowds, the shopping, the cold weather...except it's 75 in N. Mississippi this week. lol