Give yourself a break during the holidays, and beyond

Fred McCormick

Sometimes the pace of the world feels frantic.

Wake up, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up, spend a few minutes with your family, then go to sleep, wake up and repeat.

In between the day-to-day grind you have the constant flow of current events, from the 24-hour news cycle, social media posts and the arguments they bring, the divisive presidential race and the fallout from the election itself. Wildfires continue to burn here in Western North Carolina, as well as around the country as I type this.

If you’re anything like me, the weekend gives you a chance to catch your breath. But on Monday you’re back at it, ready or not.

On a recent Monday morning, I settled into my office to prepare for a busy week ahead, and I saw something that made me smile - Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 mark the return of Holly Jolly and the Christmas Parade, respectively.

There is something about the holiday season in Black Mountain. Something warm, something homey, something inviting, something needed right now.

If you haven’t been to Holly Jolly, it is an annual event in early December in which the shops downtown stay open late. Cherry Street is filled with people, usually adorned in coats, jackets, sweatshirts, gloves, or whatever is necessary to keep warm.

While the holidays seems to start earlier and earlier every year, Holly Jolly is when it really starts to feel like, as Andy Williams sang in 1963, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Smiling faces drink apple cider or hot cocoa, and every few feet someone is greeting someone they know before catching up with one another. The sounds of Christmas carols fill the air, and Santa listens to children tell him what they want to see under the tree.

Holiday cheer may or may not be a real thing, but it seems tangible at Holly Jolly and the Christmas Parade.

The parade starts at 4 p.m., but you want to get there early to get a good spot on the route. It begins on Flat Creek Road and runs west to Cragmont Road.

Many of the faces, both in the parade and in the crowd, are familiar. They are people you see every day, but who are in a more festive mood. It’s hard not to get lost in the warmth of it all.

Last year, I watched as my daughter scrambled to grab all of the candy in sight as it was tossed from passing floats. Everybody, including her, was smiling. In that moment I was incredibly thankful to be living in a town with such an event.

But throughout most of the year, the everyday hustle and bustle of life makes it easy for us to forget about the things in our lives for which we are grateful.

As I sat in my office on a busy Monday morning and thought how good it will feel to see my daughter anxiously awaiting Santa and his float as they make their way down State Street that Saturday afternoon, I was reminded of the value of happiness and how easily that can be forgotten.

So let’s soak up all of the holiday cheer over the next few weeks and spread it around long after the season has come and gone.

We could all use a break.