If the experts are to be believed, then Christmas seldom lives up to our high expectations and that's why so many are stricken with depression and gloom during the holidays. It's a let down after a big build-up.
Christmas, points out the naysayers, is rarely like the Currier and Ives paintings or Hallmark movies we cherish. You know the typical scene: Snow that glistens, bells that jingle, magical lights, gifts that are beautifully wrapped and families that are jolly and bright.
When reality collides with fantasy, it is a high speed crash that is, at best, disappointing and, at worst, devastating.
But I have seen a perfect Christmas and it was well worth the four decades and seemingly endless disappointments that it took to see the beauty of such day. A long time ago, I had pretty much decided that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would always be imperfect when held up to Hollywood's depiction. The weather might be 70 degrees or I might have the flu or someone around me might be in a bad mood, thus spoiling my day.
So, one day I just up and decided that I would stop putting so much pressure on Christmas to be all that and more. I'd give it break and let it just become a regular day in which anything can happen. Come what may, I decided, I would be happy with whatever Christmas Day presented.
I got back to the basics of Christmas and that started with Christmas Eve church service, which became my favorite part of the holiday. I thought little of what gifts I might receive and focused, instead, on family, friends, faith and food.
Christmas, despite its lack of greeting card perfection, improved dramatically. I even began to look forward to TNT's usual 24-hour marathon of "The Christmas Story," as well as a cup of my sister's deliciously spiced cider tea. The simple gifts of the season became meaningful.
Perhaps it's because I didn't have my hopes up and had long stopped wishing for that Currier and Ives greeting card that last Christmas became postcard perfect. The sweetest gifts often come when we're not looking for nor expecting them. Like the pitch perfect man who shows up when you least expect him. It is a downright glorious sight.
The forecast called for snow last year so the news anchors were all atwitter that it had not snowed a significant amount in the northern tip of Georgia on Christmas Day in modern times. We collectively held our breath. It sounded romantic and beautiful. But I didn't get my hopes up. Remember: I gave that up years ago.
Oh, what a gorgeous gray winter's day it was that morning. It looked cold in a cozy inviting way. At 10 a.m., I arrived at my sister's for our annual Christmas brunch, toting a sausage and hash brown casserole.
Over the years, what was once a table filled with clatter, chatter and china has been subdued greatly by voids created through death and other absences. Once 15 strong, we are now down to five but conversation and food remain good and enjoyable.
As we ate, the snow began to fall. Big, fat flakes. It was gorgeous. I bundled Dixie Dew into her new coat with a fur collar and took her outside to explore. We sat in the huge, red sled and watched as the snow blanketed the ground, falling until over 3 inches had accumulated. A full-fledged white Christmas.
Later, Louise and I built a fire and snuggled in to watch my favorite Christmas movie, "The Bishop's Wife," with Cary Grant and Loretta Young. I loved every minute of the day. My favorite Christmas ever.
It was perfect.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I had laryngitis. I felt fine. I just couldn't talk.
And that meant that a beautiful Christmas was made even more perfect for everyone around me.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)."