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When I was growing up, getting into the Christmas spirit happened via family traditions, of which there were many. The Nativity Scene appeared on the marble-topped dresser, illuminated by two flickering votives in their red antique hobnail candle holders. My dad made his famous eggnog, I sat in the window seat beside the Christmas tree listening to A Christmas Carol on the record player, captivated by Basil Rathbone’s voice, and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

And then there was Santa Doll.

He was dressed in a worn red and white fleece onesie, had  a kewpie doll baby face to which had been added white hair, handlebar mustache, and a full beard. He had a tiny music box inside that played Here Comes Santa Clause, and truth be told, he was a sad little rendition of old St. Nick. But it was his  appearance every year that said in no uncertain terms, that Christmas was a comin’. It was never a question of if he would show up, but when.

Traditions inspire us to hope. They remind us that regardless of our circumstances, there is a thread we can count on to carry us through the good times and the bad. Traditions are a calm place in the midst of our storms, and a beacon of light when times are dark.

Santa Doll still appears every year, as he has for as long as I can remember. Come what may, this small, ragged doll continues to herald the coming of Christmas.