The Christmas holiday is almost upon us and unlike most years, I am more organized than ever. Gifts are long since purchased and wrapped. The tree is up, the house decorated, baking is done, and my holiday menu is set, needing only last minute preparation. I should be thrilled…so how come I’m not?
Last week I was wandering through a local shop with no particular plan to buy anything, and I bumped in to a good friend, also wandering aimlessly. We engaged in the usual chit-chat then parted ways, wandering again. The encounter replayed in my mind throughout the afternoon, but not because there was anything remarkable about it…..we are good friends and see each other often. What struck me later was that she appeared as ‘low key’ as I did about the upcoming holidays. And like me, she too is prepared, so a relaxed and jovial demeanour should be the mood of the day, every coming day over the season….but it’s not.
The puzzle remained in my subconscious, unresolved, until a conversation with another good friend several days later. We had planned a shopping day and soon after she picked me up she mentioned how happy she was to be getting out, doing something, anything, because she had been feeling blue and wanted to snap out of it. This was the opening I needed.
I mentioned my own feeling of malaise and the sense that my other friend too was less than jubilant, for no apparent reason. We all three have loving families, homes, friends, all the gifts one could possibly want, so what was our problem? And are we alone?
What is it about the holidays that brings with it a feeling of melancholy? It is after all, a celebration of birth, and life, and faith. We gather with friends and loved ones. We eat and drink without abandon. We give and get ‘stuff’, whether we need it or not – what’s not to love?
Maybe it’s our sentimental side that emerges with the season. We appear to take the time to ‘reflect’ at the holidays and it seems when we have time to reflect, we also have time to regret, and reminisce, and that’s not always a bad thing, but it can be painful.
As it turns out one friend was remembering Christmases past when her husband was alive and she keenly felt the void of his passing, especially over the holidays because they spent much of their holidays celebrating at one event after another, together.
The other friend too was reflecting on past years when Christmas was lively and so busy you didn’t have time to reflect. She ran herself ragged cooking and entertaining, reveling in the joy her labours bestowed on others. So how come she’s not feeling the love now? Nothing has changed. Family and friends are still gathering, happily, and are appreciative of her efforts.
When I took the time to look inside myself I found I too was remembering what was. I remember holidays with my family as a child; a sparkling Christmas tree, laden with gifts and chocolates. I remember my parents and grandparents laughing around the holiday table. I guess through the eyes of a child we see only the wonder and happiness of the holidays. Oh, to be young and naïve again!
As we age we see not only the celebration of the occasion, but also the memories of holidays past, and the reality of the notion that not everyone has had the ‘happiness’ we have enjoyed…..I guess that’s the hard part of growing up, facing reality.
Our holiday table now has new faces filling the seats of those we’ve lost, either by death or distance, and old traditions are replaced with new. The little ones (thank heaven for them!) still run wild with excitement, eating cookies and chocolate, and dreaming of Santa’s arrival, and the elders who once hosted the holidays (and called all the shots), sit quietly at the table, having passed the torch to the next generation. This is, I guess, the cycle of life.
Change isn’t always easy but it is necessary, and it seems it is most apparent at the holidays, and since we can’t avoid it we’d best view it through the eyes of our inner child. Celebrate the moment and all who share it with you, but don’t leave out those fond memories of people and times past because it is they and those that fashion the memories we are making now. Life is good.
Merry Christmas and may God Bless!