Originally published at
Well, honestly? I think a lot of people who complain about not having any holiday spirit do so because they don’t feel that they’re festive enough, rather than accepting whatever level of festiveness they happen to feel at the moment. I mean, you’re not going to feel wonderful just because it happens to be a holiday. — Me, in a conversation with a close friend
Mama Java, she loves Christmas. A lot. It’s her birthday, and she was named for it, after all.
Now, I’ve known a lot of people who don’t like the holiday season. In spite of my own love of it, I can understand. Christmas, by its name, is considered a Christian holiday, and the non-Christians often feel overshadowed. They don’t get the day off for Solstice, or they feel sick of the manger scenes, their religion doesn’t necessarily have all that big of a winter festival, the menorah lights have been cold for days, or the family gathering where they’re getting picked on for their religion. That’s no picnic.
Then there’s the commercialism, the pressure to buy and buy and buy, and the wondering how you’re going to afford all this, the fear that you’re going to leave someone important out on your gift list. You feel guilty if you get your kids too little; feel guilty if you give your kids too much stuff. You get loaded down with knickknacks that mean nothing to you.
Then there’s the hectic schedule — the holiday concerts and parties and visits to and from relatives. Relatives. There’s a can of worms all in and of itself! You feel guilty if you don’t go to see people you’re related to. You feel guilty if you do go and aren’t thrilled.
It can be a real mess.*
I really do think that we often (myself included) miss the real meaning of the season — no matter your religion or lack thereof.
I have always thought of Christmas as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Do we always do this? Of course not. We’re human beings and we’re not perfect. But to me, the holiday season, what with the light coming back at Solstice, the anticipation of a rebirth and renewal of spirit is a time to remember and recommit to open the heart, to honor the ties we value, and to be open to what really matters in life — the love that we do hold for people in our lives.
What are some things one can do to honor the actual spirit of this time of the year?
- Don’t try to have “the perfect holiday”.
Poly families are notoriously blended families. You know, you may have had a certain ornament you just had to hang in a certain place and if you didn’t, you feel like the holiday is spoiled, but your partners probably did not grow up with this specific tradition. Don’t be too focused on How the Holiday Should Be. Be open to celebrating in different ways.
- Let go of holiday guilt
Maybe you don’t have much money, and aren’t going to be able to buy much. Maybe you’re going through a bad time personally. You don’t have to make that gingerbread train with the hand made candy lake, ice skaters and train station. If you’re in the mood, great. If not, don’t feel guilty.
- Don’t let the joy of the holiday be dependant on how other people act
- If you’re feeling Scroogish, let go of any guilt about it.
There’s not a thing wrong with lighting a candle and mediating on the season, or playing a meaningful game with the kids (and letting go of the expectation of whether or not they’re going to have bright, shining innocent faces, or if they’re going to be whiny, sugar-hyper little brats), playing an album that means a lot to you (by the way Christmas Eve and Other Stories is flat out my favorite seasonal album. ROCKS, ROCKS, I tell you!), or anything special that doesn’t require a lot of externals. For me, at least, the thing that matters most is what is in the heart. Don’t let your Holiday happiness rely on whether or not Uncle Jim gets drunk like he does every damned year and starts getting obnoxious.
If it just isn’t your thing, it isn’t. That’s okay.
In the end, it’s not about religion, it’s not about money. It’s the heart. It’s always the heart and the joy and celebration of life and light and birth and love.
In the words of The Ghost of Christmas Present: