Saturday, December 21, 2013
Making Peace with Christmas
Christmas confuses me.
From all the songs that consume nearly every radio station from Thanksgiving on, I've concluded that it's supposed to be white. (I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas). And romantic. (All I Want for Christmas is You!) It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's the happiest time of year. We want everyone to be home for Christmas. Have a holly-jolly Christmas!
It's not only the songs that tell us what the season is supposed to entail, but even the commercials for products entice us.
"Get into the holiday spirit with Dunkin Donut lattes!"
What is this holiday spirit? And how is a latte going to help me get there? And do I even want to be "in the spirit"?
The mail arrives and there's a flyer for a craft store that's having a Christmas Blowout.
I imagine tree ornaments, elves, bells and reindeer all exploding into bits.
Christmas in America confuses me.
"I'm not sure I like it," I told a friend and she tried to analyze why I had a bah-humbug attitude. To another friend I admitted that Christmas was overly-commercialized and that if I heard another peppy song about bells and sleighs and a snowman named Frosty, I might just scream something "not in the spirit".
If the spirit is overspending or seeking out the perfect gift, or feeling frantic from a busy calendar, or being envious of somebody's Martha Stewart table setting, do I want it? Why would I embrace this?
But I have. And people do.
People not only embrace it, but get flustered over it all. It's too much. There are articles out there written about reducing your stress during the holiday season. Patricia Schaefer advises us: "Don't let holiday stress spoil this joyful time of the year. Before you find yourself knee deep in turkey and dressing, holiday parties, and shopping, shopping, and even more shopping, heed these tips for reducing holiday stress."
We have to be the only species on earth that create a season that promises joy, cheer, and fun and then need to help ourselves calm down and not get overly stressed.
And through it all, we are supposed to be merry.
I'm not sure why we think that Christmas is this magical time when suddenly all should turn well and be happy. I think we have made too much over the holiday and enlarged it so big that there is no way it can ever fulfill our expectations. Christmas originated as a day chosen to recall and remember the birth of Jesus Christ. That's awesome when you stop and think about God coming down to measly ol' earth as a baby to be among us. Yet we have taken what happened on that silent night and made it into everything from Secret Santas to Mommy kissing Santa to expecting world peace. We can't even get along with our own families.
We place all this pressure on ourselves and scurry around and cram all these parties and activities into this one month.
We then complain that we're too busy. When we have brought it all on ourselves.
We get so bogged down that some of us say we want to go back to simplicity. Then we are looked upon as "evil" for not having a tree or decorating or for not wanting to attend every church choir performance or for not traveling to Bermuda or for not buying our 16 year old that Lexus that is advertised on every TV station.
Christmas is a time of great sorrow and regrets for many. It brings out the loneliness and fear. People compare their lives with others. No one seems to match up to how he or she thinks he or she should be. And when you have had a loved one die, the absence of that loved one seems to be magnified in December.
Christmas is a time when we recognize that we need to be less self-absorbed. So we guilt ourselves into giving to charities. We think of people we never give a thought to the rest of the year--those society calls, the "less fortunate". We scramble our pennies together to toss into the Salvation Army's kettle before rushing into Walmart in hopes that we can find just what our children want.
So perhaps it's not that I don't like Christmas, I don't like what we have done to Christmas in America. I know we can't and won't go back to the 1930s and 1940s, the era of our parents and grandparents. And it's not just because our children want those electronic games and toys and would never be content with the red wagon or puzzle of days gone by, it's also because society has pulled us along and we, as adults can't go back.
There has to be a balance between being exhausted and not caring. And being at peace with what you choose and how you choose to spend this birthday remembrance of the Son of God.
If you find it, please let me know how it's done.