The Christmas season has always been a magical time for me! It is filled with fond memories of my early childhood and when the world is friendlier, kinder and more loving with each other. A time when we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ – by receiving presents mysteriously delivered by a man we didn’t personally know, via a chimney we didn’t have! I never quite understand the connection between my religions’ Lord and Savior and this chubby, white-haired man in the red suit known as Santa Claus, but I sure didn’t care. Christmas made this little boy a very happy camper!
As I grew older and began to realize the holidays were more than just receiving gifts, I started a journey to discover the true “reason for the season.” I researched the life of Jesus the Christ and the story and miracle of his birth – the event Christmas is based. I also gathered information on some of the other celebrations that took place around Christmastime. I learned about the Jewish holiday Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, an eight-day celebration that commemorates victory over oppression and the power of miracles. I then discovered the African American tradition Kwanzaa, a week-long festivity patterned on the African celebration of harvest during which tribute is paid to the ancestors and to God while at the same time praying for another benevolent year.
What I found interesting is all of these events had a common theme- celebration of life, of miracles, of family and of tradition. With all of their apparent differences, when looking deep at their core, we see they are extremely similar. The thought that went through my mind was how this concept parallels the human experience. People might look different on the outside- have different colors, different cultures, different sexual orientations, different sizes and shapes but when we look more closely, we see we are all the same- spiritual beings having a human experience. We all want the same things – to be loved, cherished and appreciated. If we could only remember this fact more often, we would naturally become more compassionate, loving and respectful towards our fellow man and their personal beliefs!
As a result of this research project, I changed the language I had been using during the holiday season. In the past without even thinking, I would wish everyone I came into contact with “Merry Christmas”. I have since updated my greeting to say “Happy Holidays”, which still grants the well wishes I intended before, but without the possibility of offending someone else’s culture, traditions or beliefs. This is a small, but subtle way of honoring and respecting others, which I believe brings more harmony and peace to our crazy world.
This newfound information also brought me conscious of the fact the holiday season, however celebrated, is really about cherishing and being grateful for the intangible gifts we have in our daily lives. Some of these include good health, good fortune and having a caring family and loving friendships- to name just a few. It then becomes another opportunity to show thanks for the abundance we have in our lives, which simply is a continuation of the holiday we celebrated recently, Thanksgiving!
Coming to this understanding of the true notion of the season was wonderful, however I was keenly aware we live in a world where the holidays strongly focus on the exchanging of tangible gifts. This fact can make it both wonderful and at the same time, extremely stressful! I used to get totally anxious running around buying each person in my life something that would show my love and appreciate for them, which didn’t leave much time for actually enjoying the Christmas traditions I loved – hence taking away a bit of the magic I once felt about the season. The holidays should be about celebrating, not stressing.
With this in mind, I started on a campaign to make the holidays simpler and less stressful for both my loved ones and for myself. I had discussions with my family and friends about limiting our spending, with the exception of the children. We agreed to keep our gifts under a certain amount of money, then placed the names of those we needed to buy for in a hat and picked a name, to which we would buy one, special gift. This cut down our shopping list considerably. We also advocated making homemade gifts, which would show love and thoughtfulness towards the person for whom it was made. Everyone then breathed a great sigh of relief!
The next step for me was to recapture some of the wonder, magic and excitement I felt as a child about Christmas. I made a list of activities I loved doing during the days and weeks that lead up to that special day. I loved listening to and singing Christmas music. I loved getting together with my friends to enjoy their company. I loved decorating the Christmas tree, and perhaps my favorite was sitting in front of it in the dark, watching the lights sparkle and shine. I then took this list and incorporated as many as I could into the holiday season.
What excites you about the holidays and in future years, what can you do to simplify the season and make it more enjoyable and less stressful? These are questions worth investigating and answering for yourself!
The holiday season is about celebration of life, of miracles, of family and of tradition. It is about treating others in gentler, more loving and kinder ways. It is about remembering the events that brought you excitement and wonder during your childhood and then doing them now, as adults. But perhaps most important is remembering that the true gifts we give each other are love, care, kindness and support throughout the year.
Happy Holidays to all!