Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Meditation

The Christmas season has an amazing store of joy that it can, and often does, shower on the head of the unsuspecting. A little hand gripping your hand to tug you toward a glittering Christmas tree. A few flurries in a strangely warm winter. Hugs from kindergarteners happy that you're playing them a song for their school party. Sweet cookies around the table with friends.

Holiday shoppers (Daniel Acker, Bloomberg)
And then, meanwhile, there is the misery of shopping. The unfathomable crowds inside and lines of cars outside. The disgruntled faces at every turn. The look of frustration that I know mirrors my own as I apply strange quantities of pressure on myself to find "the perfect gift."

It occurs to me that there's an inverse relationship between these two things. That the more I get caught up in the shopping, buying, surprising, driving, competing ... the less I glimpse the simple, clear joys of the season.

Those joys are childlike things. To see the season from the eyes of an innocent wonder: that's the secret, I think. And heaping piles of stuff somehow deadens that wonder.

It's not all that different from life, is it?

So here's to keeping an eye out for the joy, friends.


  1. I think what you write here is very true.

    I also think that each and every one of us has all the power we need to turn that around.

    I'd like to share a few things that we do here to keep The Winter Feast. We're not Christians so we can't properly say that we are celebrating Christmas but the older celebration of the Sun's imminent return, the lengthening days and promise of spring - although we do use 'Christmas', too and I'll use the term here.

    These are things that I hope others, regardless of religion or the lack of it, might find helpful in making the festival once more about magic and not about money:

    1. Remember that Christmas starts on 24th December and ends on the Twelfth Night. It doesn't begin in the middle of October!

    2. Choose a real tree, ideally cut it yourself. Collect holly and ivy to decorate your house rather than plastic and glitz. Boughs of green in candlelight are beautiful and mean something (the returning cycle of life and growth.) They are also free and gathering them together with family and friends builds real togetherness.

    3. Don't over eat. Make the meals special for sure but there is no advantage in making yourself sick.

    4.Don't buy gifts. Make them. IF you must buy them, get good quality used stuff. For yourself, ask that anyone who wants to give something to you make a donation of as much as they can to a chosen charity or benevolent organisation. If you have gifts to unwrap - remember to take it in turns, giving everyone time to enjoy the pleasure of others as they open their gifts.

    5. During at least one of the 12 days of Christmas, make time to help out at a homeless center or soup kitchen or organise an entertainment in a children's hospital.

    6. Don't watch TV. Gather together to read to each other, to play music, to sing and enjoy each other's company, to play traditional games such as Blind Man's Buff and Charades.

    7. If you know people who are elderly, or young and alone at Christmas time, invite them into you home, at least to share a meal or a glass of Christmas cheer.

    8. On the Twelfth Night, gather to tell stories and sing songs and burn the decorations - you can't do that with expensive plastic glitz!

    I realise that not everyone is privileged enough to live in a situation where woodlands of holly and ivy are ready to hand, or where the burning of the same would be either possible or even safe - but exercise imagination and you can find a way. Even making decorations from paper is better as there is real satisfaction in it and everyone can work together.

    There you go. Once you get into the mindset, more things will come to mind and as you let the commercialism of Christmas dissolve out of your celebrations, you will discover what is really worth celebrating.

    Wishing everyone a peaceful and happy season filled with generosity and love. :)

    1. Thanks, Austin. Great tips. I don't think the no-gifts part would go over well in my house, but most of the other points you make are possible and would really help put the focus on the celebration. I especially like #5 and have been meaning to start a tradition around that.



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