The shopping crush. The mounting credit card bills. Traffic jams. Filled parking lots. Screaming kids. Carols repeating over and over. It seems like every December we feel we have to endure so much, and for what?
The thing it isn’t about is the mountain of gifts that dwarf the too-tall-to-fit-the-room tree. At best those are nothing but symbols. The intent is to give those close to us a token to remind them that they matter in our lives. That’s the intent. The reality is that it’s become a bit of a contest: I love you more because I’ve given the most; I’m the most loved because I got the most.
The season is about remembering that we depend on each other. No matter how advanced our technology or independent our spirit, we all know that we rely on our family, friends, and chosen members of our community for everything that truly matters. At the base is food, shelter, clothing, heat (in winter), and aid & comfort for those times when illness, physical limits, or age hobbles us. Those are the things that all of this gift-giving and group traditions are designed to celebrate.
I admit that there have been years when I splurged a little too much with the presents. It wasn’t meant as a contest but as an expression of my love for the recipients. In truth, it was probably at least as much to validate myself as it was to acknowledge them. The reality is that more joy has been exchanged from the well-chosen, if rare, gift than from any profligate shopping spree. The right gift for the right person(s) at the right time means so much more than all of that other noise.
For me, Christmas is like an extension of Thanksgiving…just with less emphasis on food and a bit more on sharing the love. Sadly, it seems that as time has passed, the season is now more about the trappings than the tenderness. The idea is that bigger is better, but instead it’s really just “more”, and that more is actually “less”.
I was taken with the idea from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that the reformed Scrooge kept Christmas in his heart for all the days of the year. Sadly, I can’t claim that degree of completeness. The irony is that I’m more attuned to the spirit of the holiday season at every time of the year except in the period starting on “Black Friday” and ending on New Year’s Day. I find it a stressful time where the noise of expectation sometimes overwhelms the meaning.
Still, when all is said and done, the noise ultimately quiets and a pause appears where meaningful time is shared with dear friends and loved ones. Which, regardless of your reasons for making this time of year special, is the reason this time of the year is special.
So, I wish for all of you a Merappiful Chrismukkwanzolstivusuleday (Merry/Happy/Joyful Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa/ Solstice/ Festivus/ Yule/ Holiday) to you and yours. Be safe. Be happy. Be forgiving. And remember to love freely, whenever you can.
As a little something extra for your virtual stockings, here is a scan of the original version of the editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus“, published in The New York Sun on September 21, 1897. Enjoy.