The Holiday Season is here, the traffic and busy nature of the stores as well as the crush of the final shopping days are upon us, and then it will all be over. The holiday parties for companies, the gatherings for family and friends, and then it will be quiet again. I continue to reflect on the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I realized something that compelled me to write this commentary.
In all of the stress, the lists, the rushing around, and the unpleasantness of travel leading up to the holidays, we as a collective society have the tendency to miss out entirely on the joy and peace that Christmas can provide to us. We can get so caught up in our needs and the pressures existing in our own lives, that we can easily neglect the needs of others in our own families as well as those less fortunate.
I am guilty of it myself, it is difficult at times to see “the big picture”, but it is critically important to take some time to reflect and do that for your own sake, and for those around you. Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, it is a time to look back on your work and your life over the past year. It is a time of looking forward to the New Year ahead, and the promise and challenges that it will present.
It is a time to prepare to make adjustments in our lives, to set new goals, and to reevaluate the various components in our lives. Christmas is a holiday that has an ever changing meaning throughout our lives. That is a key difference from other holidays, which remain for the most part, pretty static through the years.
My earliest memories of Christmas are of my Grandparent’s home in a New York suburb, and the warmth of the house as the preparations for the holiday were being made. I remember going with my extended family into Manhattan and looking at the windows set up with holiday scenes in all the large department stores. We also would stop at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and we would visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for some moments of quiet prayer.
I remember the excitement of Christmas Eve, going to Mass that evening all together, returning home for the big family dinner, and then talking with my sisters and my cousin about what we thought would be underneath the tree for us the next morning.
The excitement of a child on Christmas morning is one of pure joy, when you are younger, the spiritual component of the day is not fully understood. The secularization of the day has made it about Santa Claus and toys, and that is a big component of Christmas when you are a child. The world is so innocent, and as a kid, that morning was a really special time because later in life you get stripped of that excitement; until you have it with your own children or other children in your extended family.
I spent every Christmas at my Grandparent’s home through my entire childhood and through high school and college. I have some warm memories of those days. It was very nice to spend it together with my family. I am grateful and appreciative of that time spent with my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. My Grandparents enjoyed hosting the holiday too. I loved how happy those days made my Grandparents, and I am fortunate to celebrate this year with my Grandfather. My Grandma was always one of the first adults up with us, her grandchildren, early in the morning.
She would make Folgers coffee and joke about the commercial and whether the aroma really would wake up the other adults in the house. I think our screaming and mayhem must have woke everyone up! Those days, those memories are good ones that I am blessed to have. So many people have had it far more difficult than I have, though every family has their fair share of hardship. The years moved forward, and family dynamics change, and those days are now just memories to me.
The spiritual meaning of Christmas has taken on an increasingly significant role to me as I grew older. I have a different perspective on the day and the meaning of Christmas than I did when I was a child. In my life, as in the journey that each one of us is on, I have experienced hardship, pain, and loss.
The circumstances around these events have shaped my life and had an impact on the person that I am today. I remember some years where the future was very uncertain, and I would sit next to the Christmas tree and feel the light and peace that the season can deliver. I felt hope for the days and weeks ahead.
Conversely, I have had other years where I would listen to Christmas music and not feel anything. I would sit next to the Christmas tree at night, and feel so lonely, so isolated, and so alone. The medical community can attest to the increased level of depression and anxiety at Christmas and throughout the two weeks that mark the holiday season.
It is helpful at those points to get out of your own head, and offer to assist others. It is helpful, and at some points, necessary, to talk about what you may be feeling. We all have problems or issues which may seem to get increasingly difficult at Christmas. I was watching a business news channel the other day, and I was thinking about all the people who have lost their jobs in corporate layoffs at Christmas and how terrible that must be for them.
I also think about the veterans, the homeless, and those who are sick either physically or mentally. I hope that the New Year will bring me an opportunity to do more to help them, to rise above my own limitations and to find a way to make a difference in the lives of others.
In closing, as Christmas is upon us, it is a time to celebrate and reflect on the blessings that we have, and to identify the changes each one of us can make to have a greater impact, in a positive way, on those we come in contact with each day. I hope that this commentary has helped you to determine ways in which you can initiate those changes. I thank you all for your continued support of my blog and my other writing work.
I wish all of you, from my family to yours, a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed and Happy New Year!