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Does It Almost Feel Like Nothing’s Changed at All?

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When everything changes, everyone notices, though only the children have the words to talk about it. But after a few years, even those who are still children find it hard to remember how things used to be, as neither those older nor those younger than them seem to notice that anything is different from how it had been before.

The Christmas season has always been a time to sleep long, and deeply, for the vivid dreams that those long nights bring. The lights have always been gold, the trees have always been gold, and gold is the color of all the warmth and nostalgia of the holiday. Gold is the perfect complement to the silver of the snow and the black of the bare trees. The Sandman brings the gifts, and each child hopes to wake on Christmas morning to find a fantastical golden toy wrapped and waiting for them, an object plucked straight from their dreams.

Lost teeth are always a cause for celebration, bringing presents as they do, sturdy presents that will last a lifetime, that may become heirlooms in their time, finely-made things that only ever seem to gather good memories. Santa Claus, of course, brings these.

Spring is always a season of birds. The true end of winter is signaled by a sudden increase in birdsong, by the everyday sighting of more and more colorful flights through the air. Stories say that some of these birds are not birds at all, but little fairies, bringing color to spring flowers and renewing the world. The little bird-fairies are supposed to hatch from the beautiful painted eggs found on Easter, kept for a time, and then re-hidden. If you take good care of your Easter eggs, the fairies may leave you a beautiful flower made of feathers when they finally take the eggs back.

Across the world, children have always had games they tell only other children about. Rabbit games, they call them. There are dozens upon dozens of regional variations, and almost everyone remembers these games as one of the most fun parts of their childhood—though often they do not remember all the details. Anthropologists are fascinated by the phenomenon, especially since the games seem to have no source. That’s not quite true, though. Children just know enough not to admit to grown-ups that a giant rabbit taught them how to play.

Thrills and chills. The chill of fear. Fear’s icy touch. The proverbs don’t need to change much. What changes instead, is the archetypical fear. It’s not darkness, not anymore. Now, it’s cold. Even for those who notice the change, this makes more sense. After all, what’s really dangerous about the darkness? Why should it be feared? The cold, at least, has killed before. Winter becomes a nervous season, where only the gilding of Christmas brings comfort.

Aside from the bright dreams of Christmas, everyone knows that dreams are dark, rich, and strange. They are not cold and frightening, though perhaps they would be, if the things in them were real. Mr. Black, who brings the dreams, remains an ambiguous figure, and the power of imagination is never thought of as entirely innocent.

But then again, perhaps it never was, even when all dreams were bright and only nightmares dark.

Perhaps nothing has changed after all.