How he loved this time of year. He enjoyed watching all of the seasons come and go, but this one had always been his favourite. The colourful lights strung across storefronts, the Christmas music playing softly, the friendly smiles from strangers. Tonight was also the official City Light-up Ceremony so there was more activity than usual downtown. The giant Christmas tree stood proudly, covered with decorations, its bright lights visible from blocks away. Kids were running around squealing with glee, both hands full of candy canes and hot chocolate, not caring that it spilled as they slid and played in the snow covered square. It wouldn’t be long until the parents would be shooing these children off to bed, telling them they must fall asleep quickly for Santa to come. His thoughts harkened back to his own childhood, remembering the excitement of this magical season; the treats, the toys, the goodwill, and of course the family and friends. Like most children, the toys had been his favourite part of the holidays but as he grew older he realized that the family gatherings were what really counted. He fondly recalled the smell of turkey throughout the house as the family dinner was prepared. He would warm his hands by the stove, cheeks red from an adventurous afternoon out in the snow with his brothers. They always knew it was time to come in when the sun had set and the brightly coloured Christmas lights their dad had hung from the eaves were the only thing left to light their way through the snow. He started to wonder what his brothers were up to tonight, wondered if they were somewhere in the crowd with their own children now… but he quickly brushed those thoughts aside. Thoughts like that only brought pain and he was in too good of a mood tonight. Besides, this festive season would end soon enough, the cold darkness of January would set in and people would go back to staring at their shoes to avoid eye contact as they walked past him. He breathed a lonely sigh as he sat down on his ragged cardboard matt in the alley that he called home. He pulled his knees to his chest and hunched his collar up a little higher over his bare neck; it was going to be another long, cold night on the street. “Merry Christmas” he mumbled to himself.