This year, especially, it seems that families will be close for the holiday. We’re in lockdown across the country, restaurants are predominantly closed, and we’re able to be with each other in ways that seemed impossible just last year.
It used to be that most places closed on holidays. Until they figured out that there was a market for shopping on holidays. For eating out. Then, as one or two started opening, others followed suit. Pretty soon, the holidays were just another set of days.
But this year, that’s not possible. We’re inside. If lucky, we have the outdoors to wander about in. And if we’re lucky, we have our family. Someone to spend this time with. To grow closer with. To drive crazy, as families tend to do when cooped up together.
Still, view this time together as an opportunity.
I’ve noticed, this year in particular, how important traditions are. I don’t have many that have remained unchanged over the years. Most revolve around holidays, especially Christmas.
What that does is create shared experiences. Community, when family wouldn’t always be considered friends, and where friends become family. In the absence of community, bonds can fall apart.
That’s why tight-knit families have so many traditions – the traditions are how they became so close.
And it doesn’t take many. Two or three annual occurrences, inclusive and meaningful, are enough to bring a family closer.
Yes, that’s right. The leap year – 2020 – adds one day to the wait for Christmastime. But that’s okay. As I wrote yesterday, it’s easy to keep the season alive all year long.
I sincerely hope it was a wonderful holiday for you, dear reader, and for your loved ones.
I’ve taken to thinking of each holiday (and sometimes each day) on a sliding scale from the beginning of my life to the end. A definite middle point (one day) indicates that there is an even number of moments before this point and after it. When I reach that day, I have fewer moments ahead of me then I have behind.
So, at some point, you’ll have fewer Christmases with your family left ahead than the Christmases you’ve been already spent together. And that can be a sobering thought. A meditation on cherishing the present moment; on loving others, and yourself.
This is the last I’ll say of Christmas, more or less, for this year. The rest of the next seven days will be spent focusing on the year that was, and the coming year.
But my hope is that I’ve not yet reached the middle point of this holiday with my family and loved ones – that I have more Christmases left in front of me with my parents and my friends than we’ve already had together. And I hope that for you as well.
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
At last, the shopping is over. The family is gathered. The presents are unwrapped. The meals are eaten. And, at close of day, we go our separate ways back into the world. Maybe this holiday we spend with someone we only see once per year. Or less.
But as we depart, let us be reminded that Christmas is more than a day, or a celebration, or presents, or feasting. That Christmas is the opening of our hearts to those we know and those we don’t.
When the bells strike midnight tonight, do not let the doors of the heart swing shut for another year. Be open to possibility. To love and family and friendship. Find compassion throughout the year in all you do, and live Christmas not just today, but every day.
I’ve been playing fast and loose with my writing the past few weeks. Whereas I’m getting my morning pages done every day, my posts have been hit or miss on content and creativity. With Christmas just a day away, I’m hopeful that my schedule will be more manageable in just a few days.
That being said, thanks for keeping up with the blog.
This day always makes me think of the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, as my dad would read it to me every year – for many years. In 2008, I received a DVD copy of his reading it, so that I could have it in perpetuity.
So, as the poem ends, I’ll too end by saying, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
I overheard in a break room that “Working retail has ruined Christmas…” for the woman who said this. And that got me thinking. Is commercialism ruining Christmas?
Radio stations start playing Christmas music in November, or maybe even October. Do they do it to get the spirit going? No, they do it to catch radio listeners, and thus sell more ads.
Television, stores, nonprofits, and other businesses use Christmas to bring in or make more money. But what does that do to Christmas? Many of our cherished Christmas traditions were marketing campaigns during the holidays, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Montgomery Ward Department Store) and Santa’s Red Suit (Designed by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, but which was popularized by Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaign).
Even Dicken’s A Christmas Carol created some traditions we still use today.
To answer the question of a ruining of Christmas, it must be understood what Christmas is. And that answer is so many things to different people.
So celebrate Christmas your way, and find moments to enjoy the season. It comes just once each year…
It’s been three years since I’ve become a vegetarian. I’m often asked why. No, it’s not because I was chased by a killer turkey.
I had toyed with the idea before. When I was younger, twelve maybe, I tried to go vegetarian. I didn’t receive much support from my family.
But the reason behind it was that I felt guilty for eating an animal that had died just so that I could eat it.
There’s a branch of Buddhism that sends it monks out on pilgrimage. They are graciously welcomed into houses, and allowed to partake of any meal that the family is providing. However, if the family slaughters an animal to celebrate the visiting monk, the pilgrim may not eat of it, as it was killed explicitly for his arrival.
In much the same way, I decline to eat any meat. Of course, no animal was killed expressly for me. Yet, the animal was killed with the intention that someone would purchase and eat it. So I refrain.
It’s easier being a vegetarian now than even ten or fifteen years ago. Beliefs that were on the fringe not so long ago have come to the forefront, and even current fringe beliefs are generally better accepted by the public. So it’s a good time to be a vegetarian.
Today, I’ve set up a Christmas tree, and helped with some outdoor decorations. At two houses. Neither one was mine.
And that’s great! Helping others set up for Christmas is part of getting in the spirit. It’s not a copmpetition of who has the best decor. It’s a collaboration of good tidings.
Here’s a photo of my friend’s house.
And my big contribution was making sure that the Y in “JOY” was lit up. Before I helped, it just said “JO”.
And everything else was extension cords.
So, even if we’re not quite to Thanksgiving yet, “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal!”
Halloween. The candy is out, and the houses are decorated with pumpkins, cobwebs, and other scary paraphernalia.
I do love this time of year. It’s October, and that’s a great time of year for me. Busy. But great.
As you unwrap the candies and snack away, waiting for trick-or-treaters, or watch scary movies to celebrate, I hope you remember what it was like when you were young. When monsters were real, and magic lurked behind everything you didn’t understand.
I think there’s joy in living life that way, which is why we get to be envious of youth.