I don’t know if it’s cause we live in California and the lack of seasons has affected our perception of the holidays, but more often than not, I’m running into people who say it doesn’t “feel like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, etc.”
Understandably, age tends to weaken the initial excitement we had for the holidays as kids. Instead of just setting out cookies and milk while restlessly waiting for presents, we now struggle to finish deadlines, fulfilling hours at work, and mainly worry about Christmas shopping and sticking to our budget. If we let it, the responsibilities we have as an adult can get the best of us.
But this is not what the holidays are about. Too many people are stressing out, now saying they’re “not ready for Christmas,” and that’s a paradox within itself. (When people say they’re “not ready”, they’re usually referring to the state of money, finances, job, career and all things of this material world. Just ask them to expand on their line of thought and you will see what I mean.)
If you have family or friends, certainly you’re prepared to enjoy some quality time with loved ones. If you’re a Catholic, certainly you’ve planned to attend mass and celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Too many people are fixated on the materialistic nature of the holidays, which has more so turned into 2 months of consumerism rather than joyful days of celebration.
In my spirituality class, we’ve been instructed to do the opposite of whatever leads us to sin: If you have a pattern of greediness, give more; if you know you’re inclined to commit gluttony, fast a little bit; if you are predisposed to lust, practice being pure; if anger rules your life, try being meek. For example, on black friday, a day dedicated to pure worldly consumption, my family and I donated 8 bags of “things” to Good Will. On a day everyone was buying, we were getting rid of clutter.
Father says we have to go against the grain in order to keep any ounce of morality that we have. We live in a society that is consciously numb. We’ve numbed down our conscience so that we can be comfortable with our lives, but it’s actually the lack of conscience formation that creates all the negative feelings of stress, anxiety and despair.
So on Thanksgiving, my family and I actually spent the first half of our day in a juvenile hall to show some love and encouragement to the convicted children who have lost their way. Albeit unconventional, it was actually the most meaningful Thanksgiving I’ve ever spent. A former inmate shared his story of how he started out in the very same spot as these kids, and later ended up in prison, sentenced for 30 years to life. His story was tragic to begin with, but later unfolded with graces of forgiveness, enlightenment, motivation and inspiration. Through God’s mercy and a change of heart in a 20 year period, he was finally liberated, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Today this gentleman helps run a well known mission, giving back to his community, empowers the poor and the uneducated, while inspiring people with his story in his return to God.
That’s what holidays are about. Whether in a cozy home with loved ones, or sharing stories in prison, if it’s uplifting, then you’re OK. We don’t need to unwrap iPads under the tree or indulge in a fancy festive dinner, although that would be nice.
The priest from my church always says, “Wouldn’t it be weird to go to someone else’s birthday party and receive all their gifts?” Now, whether or not you believe in Jesus is not the intent of this post. But if we make this season more about giving than receiving, we wouldn’t stress out as much. And I’m not talking materialistic worldly presents, but more so your time and energy.
Instead of examining whether or not we’re financially prepared to buy a bunch of presents, we should look forward to these holy days as days of quality time-with our loved ones, with our community or even with complete strangers who will somehow ignite that light within ourselves and inspire us to do good.
The holidays are about taking the time out to help others in any way you can. It’s the little boy that opened the door for me at Barnes and Noble impromptu; it’s donating a bag of goods so that others may make use of your unwanted materials; it’s donating a can of food to charity; it’s about attending a friend’s sister’s Christmas concert just because you were invited; it’s the fragile old man who looks like he could use a seat, yet refuses to sit down in church so that all the ladies, young or old, may be comfortable; it’s giving the homeless your time to prepare them a hot meal; it’s taking time out to finish that project with your dad or simply smiling at a stranger blasting them with love.
In whatever you do, may you be mindful and especially more vigilant in practicing and developing conscience awareness during this socially chaotic month that consists of hectic shopping, extravagant purchases and parking lot road rage at the mall.
Whether or not you believe in Jesus, this season is about returning to God, returning to the light, and sharing our time and talents with others. Because positivity breeds light, while stress breeds anger, resentment, anxiety and despair. Let us not lose ourselves in this time of hedonism.
May you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year filled with light, love and vitality.