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Sweethearts, bitter hearts, it being Christmas Eve, I'll tell you a story. There is no Yule log involved, wooden or cake.

One day late last week I was in a grocery story, near where I live in downtown Toronna. It's a small shop, the sort that's packed in the immediate after-work hours, especially at this time of the year. People getting groceries were tired, a little frantic. They carried heavy Christmas shopping and many looked like they also carried a year's worth of worry about work and other matters.

There was grumpiness in the air. The small store was very crowded, the lineups were long. People were getting testy. The situation encapsulated the stress and pressure that so many people feel at this time of the year. There is so much to do and so little time, so many people to please.

There was a radio playing, the sound carrying throughout the little store. At the point where the testiness was rising, another song came on the radio. It was the Feist song 1234 - "One, two, three four, tell me that you love me more...." - a gloriously cheerful piece of pop ephemera, something that makes you tap your toes, sway to the rhythm. Somebody started humming along, somebody else smiled. A mother went on her knees and made her tiny, tired child dance a little to the song. Everybody watching that scene smiled, and cheered up immensely.

I was watching too and remembered something. I remembered one winter day, just like that day last week, and walking briskly past a corner about five minutes walk from the grocery store where that little scene unfolded. Specifically, it was outside the Future Bakery, when there was a Future Bakery at the corner of Queen West and Tecumseth in Toronna. Two young women were leaving and standing there, talking as they pulled on their scarves and hats. As I passed them I recognized one. I didn't know her name but I knew the angular face and long dark hair. It was the young woman from that band, Broken Social Scene, the one that wasn't famous yet but that some people in the tiny arts scene of Queen West talked about with awe, a secret shared. I heard her laughing as she shook snow from her hair. If it wasn't for the sound of the exuberant laugh ringing out, I'd probably have forgotten the moment.

I'm sure that some of the people in the store last week have, like me, lived long enough in the area to have passed Leslie Feist on the street, not knowing who she was or not imagining that her talent, her voice would one day bring an important few minutes of joy: A mother and child dancing to the sound of her music in a crowded store full of tired, sullen, stressed people; the mother-and-child being at the heart of the Christmas story that is, in turn, at the heart of the season that was making everyone so frantic and tired.

So I figured that I'd tell you the story so you might know this: Take pleasure in ephemera this season, in the small poetry of passing moments of joy that the most slender elements of the popular culture can bring. And remember that someone created those moments, a writer, a singer, an actor, a musician, someone you've passed on the street who had a talent, a gift unknown to you. And when you're giving gifts, remember that gifts are given to us every day by people we don't know, would never recognize.

According to the Christian tradition, which dominates the season for better or worse, miracles surrounded Christ's birth. Well, there is something miraculous too about the pleasure that sweet, ephemeral entertainment can bring. And something miraculous about the creation of it. Enjoy it, whether you find it on television, in music or somewhere else. Take solace in the joy it brings and use the joy to tell someone you love them more. Sweethearts and bitter hearts, take that to heart.

I'll be back on New Year's Day.

Airing tonight

It's Wonderful Life (NBC, CBC, 8 p.m.) is the required viewing for many people tonight. CTV has the charming Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story (CTV, 8 p.m.), about teenager Simon Jackson (Mark Rendall), and how his encounter with a rare white Kermode bear led him to become a vocal teenaged political activist on the environment. CTV also has the 1951 movie version of A Christmas Carol (CTV, 11:30 p.m.) starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and that's also the required viewing for many.

Check local listings.