Christmas is coming and will have gone by the time the next Thursday Thirteen rolls around.
This year, for reasons I won't go into, I have a lot to think about as the holidays draw near. Some of these thoughts are heavy, others not, but the ol' brain cells have been clicking away.
The holiday season for some is warm and cuddly; for others, a lonely time. Some find it divisive, a way of separating those who keep varying traditions, forcing like to consort with like, as it were.
I grew up in the mostly secular traditions of the holiday, with the Coca Cola Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman. Baby Jesus was a part of the deal, but Santa Claus and presents was the real reason for the season. I feel this was the tradition of both of my grandparents' households, as well - traditions in play for about a century. We sang carols and had a manger scene, but the birth of Christ was given equal weight with St. Nick, the Christmas tree, and spiked egg nog.
Frankly, I see nothing wrong with that type of celebrating. Of course I would not find it offensive, having been brought up in that tradition. My husband's family also leaned in that direction, so he and I were able to blend our traditions without trouble. I don't care if someone wishes me Merry Christmas or says Happy Holidays. I'm a live and let live sort of gal.
No matter how you celebrate, or what you celebrate, I think there are things to ponder and contemplate about the season, life lessons to be learned, perhaps, that other times of the year do not offer.
1. The art of giving. Gift-giving is a special art, one that requires thought and time. These days it's become somewhat mundane - there isn't much thought in a gift card. Giving a well-thought-out present can be a unique experience.
2. The art of receiving. Just as finding or creating that special present for someone you care about has its own rewards, so too does being the recipient of a gift. Learning to accept a gift you may not want or need is a tactful lesson we all should master.
3. Helping others. At this time of year, with cold winds making bones ache and walls feel thin, it is especially crucial to remember those who have less.
4. Keeping rituals. Traditions are important, and those that exist within each household are as important as any other. Whether it's baking cookies, using special plates, or having certain items on the menu, creating and keeping rituals allows us to bond. In our house, my brother and I were allowed to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. We do that still to this day.
5. Keeping old memories alive. My brother and I frequently reminisce during Christmas about the holidays gone by. No one but he and I will ever know those childhood legacies and the things we experienced together growing up. Only I share the knowledge of the Rock-'em Sock- 'em Robots, the Legos, and the Erector set.
6. Making new memories. Each year when my brother brings his family to my doorstep, we make new memories that encircle his children, too, as they share in those long-remembered joys. My circle of family has dwindled as folks have passed away, but each year is a new measure of what we bring to one another.
7. Enhancing spirituality. I think humans are, by definition, spiritual creatures. This spirituality may be celebrated with a religion such as Christianity, in nature worship, or other ways, but I think even atheists have spiritual bonds that need tending in some fashion. The holiday season reminds us to address this basic need and to take steps to keep holy that which makes us whole.
8. Appreciating beauty. One of the loveliest things about a Christmas tree is that it brings light and sparkle to an otherwise drab time of year. When things are at their most dormant, we bring in evergreens to remind us that life goes on and spring will return to us in time.
9. Believe you can do anything. During this season, you can become a secret elf, make dreams come true, be the superwoman taking care of a job and the home all the while making it look easy. Believe in yourself. You can do it!
10. Appreciating food. Let's face it, it's time to eat! Cookies, cakes, fudge - good desserts and bad, confront us during the holiday season. Taking time to appreciate a little of a good thing is a great way to enjoy the holiday without overindulging and needing the Pepto Bismal.
11. Learning the value of things. Perhaps we have too many things in this day and age, but some things still have value to us. For some people, a gift is their love language - that's how they know someone loves them. For those folks, the gift may not be very big eloquent, just a little something that says, "I thought of you and I love you." Gifts need not be flashy and expensive.
12. Be good for goodness sake. The song says this, right? But being good because it is the right thing to do is important, and something we should strive for all year long.
13. Feel the magic. I put this last not because it is least, but because it is the one thing I hope you remember. The season creates its own sense of magical delight, with whispers and giggles. That joy we find in one another's company can be recreated throughout the year if we so wish. Life is special, and we only have this one magical, splendid time. So I wish for you, dear reader, a magical life, from this day forth.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers, far and near. May your days be blessed and your life full of joy.
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