The Christmas holiday starts earlier and ends later each year and while it is a much beloved celebration to many, we have to acknowledge that for some it is a difficult, lonely, and stressful time. Those who do not have family or loved ones to celebrate with have to plaster a smile on their face and pretend that all is right in the world. They are besieged with holiday salutations, holly jolly music, and shiny holiday decorations and advertisements; all reminders of what they do not have and I suspect it takes a very strong sole and generous heart to keep a stiff upper lip.
Long ago, before Christmas became the commercial event that it is, people celebrated the occasion more humbly. The gathering of family and friends was the celebration – gifts were not a part of the equation, not yet. Children played with the simplest of toys…..each other, elders would partake in libations toasting to the good of all mankind and peace in the world. Now we exhaust ourselves searching for the perfect gifts, spending far more than we should, and while we still indulge in copious amounts of ‘spirit’ it is no longer in tribute to any deity, rather it is to celebrate that we survived the season.
Modern day Christmas sees Santa arriving on a supersonic jet with any number of expensive digital toys for worthy little boys and girls. Mothers are expecting diamonds from Peoples Jewelers, and Dad’s sure to get that new workbench and table saw.
Traditional carols have been replaced with modern versions of Christmas music, some good, some total garbage. (I heard a Beach Boys song today, Little Saint Nick, that included the phrase ‘Christmas comes this time each year’ repeatedly throughout the song…yeah, there’s a genius lyric)
I was stunned to discover that rap too has found a place in the holiday music list, and while I respect that taste is a personal thing, I believe there is a time and place for everything, and rap holiday music is as welcome as a polka played by bagpipes. (It’s hard to envision Charles Dickens Carolers ‘getting down’ with Silent Night.)
Christmas movies have broadened the whole holiday story, but thankfully, remained true to the Christmas message, for the most part. Someone loses sight of the true meaning of Christmas, has an ‘encounter’ of some sort, then finds their ‘holiday spirit’, just in time for Santa’s arrival. (all variations of ‘Scrooge’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’) Are we tired yet?
Let’s take it back to simpler times. Listen to Bing Crosby croon White Christmas, or Burl Ives sing Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Sit down with the kids and watch A Christmas Carol or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Bake some cookies, together. Reach out to someone you know who may be alone on the holidays – one more seat at the table costs nothing but means so much to another. Forgo the expensive gifts; set a limit for all to stick to – you may be surprised at how welcome and relieved they will be.
More importantly, remember why we are celebrating the holiday at all. Take pleasure in the company of friends and loved ones (even if you don’t like them very much) because the underlying message of this holiday is gratitude, love thy neighbor, and peace to all. If you are fortunate enough to be born into a loving family environment, lucky you. Share the wealth because everyone deserves love, and kindness, and happiness…especially at Christmas. Peace.