What is it about the “Holiday Season” that gets us so amped up with good tidings and merry wishes yet at the same time so utterly stressed out that underneath the plastered smiles and ugly sweaters we secretly cannot wait for it all to be over? While most of us seem to enjoy the forthcoming smells of gingerbread, pine and peppermint, I find that, for adults at least, the olfactory adulations are quite often short-lived.
We make our lists and check them more than twice, groaning at what we can’t afford or can’t find in his or her size. We surf the net tirelessly for the best deals, cursing our online shopping cart that if our order doesn't arrive by the 23rd all hell will break loose, while the more courageous of us bustle their way through store crowds, wishing on a tree-top star that what they came for is still in stock. We drag those dusty boxes of tangled lights and decorations out of the attic to adorn our homes and God help whoever is near us if those lights refuse to flash, the cat heaves up a tinsel-laden hairball, or worse yet, we come a-tumbling down off the roof in the process of said preparations.
I remember as a child being utterly STOKED for Christmas morning to come. Mind you I come from a “Catholic-meshed-with-a-bit-of-Jewish” family so my holiday season was at its core a rather interesting one riddled with some underlying guilt and latkes. Usually the guilt came after the inhalation of too many of those latkes. All jokes aside, my family mostly sided with the Catholic tradition, so we opted for sacrificing live trees over spinning dreidels. OK, now all jokes aside.
In those days, I always loved this time of year for a couple of reasons. For one, I got to be heard, and was not promptly told, “No!” for sharing things I wished for, which believe it or not wasn't always a list of material goods. Instead I was asked, “What would you like to have?” and that simple acknowledgement; that presence bestowed upon a kid is just an indescribable feeling. To have a time of year, where your feelings are put on the front burner and given the utmost attention is an exhilarating high to children, and is way better than any candy-induced sugar rush!
But of course we've all heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing” which leads to my second favorite thing. I knew I would get to see all of my extended family…and they would ALL have gifts for me! Mind you, I've since mostly grown out of my societally-molded materialism, but to this day it still makes me wonder. As a society, which aspect of this yearly tradition of gift-giving (and receiving) are we feeding into our kids to be the centerpiece of the holiday season? Granted I have no children of my own, but hey I was one once, so I like to think I’m speaking from experience here. Have we turned these “tidings of cheer” into mere expectations that can only be fulfilled by a swipe of your credit card? Have we taken the spirit out of the celebration, regardless of the religious or non-religious context your beliefs fall under? Do we simply go along to get along because Hallmark has taken over yet another day on the Gregorian calendar, and to feel connected and a part of something, we must then conform to make it all about the presents and less about the presence?
In the American tradition, the story goes that a jolly, bearded man in a red and white suit somehow manages to cruise around the world in a large sleigh guided by magical, flying reindeer carrying one gift for every good child on the entire planet. Children throughout the year are kept in line by the repeated announcement of this magical event and are continually reminded that “naughty” children will only get a lump of coal in their stockings. This last tidbit of information ALWAYS ticked me off as a kid and I even called out an unsuspecting mall Santa on it one year asking how in the world he manages to carry not only enough presents in his sleigh, but also what I imagined to be a hefty amount of coal. I never did get an answer that satisfied me, only a look of complete bewilderment.
The story continues that on his journey this jolly man eats what I always imagined to be millions of cookies chased by millions of glasses of milk (no bathroom breaks, either – there is NO time for that nonsense); he then leaves gifts under the sacrificial tree as his way of saying thank you to all the “good” boys and girls. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? This sounds less like a feasible explanation as to how those wrapped boxes magically appear under the tree on Christmas morning, and more like a college kid explaining his first experience with LSD. Wouldn't it make more sense for someone to build an Oreo factory on the North Pole to satisfy Santa’s cookie addiction, rather than having him go through this ridiculous fiasco for a one night bender every year? I even considered writing Sesame Street at one point to inquire how they dealt with Cookie Monster’s hang-up.
Up until about 8 years old, I thought it was THE coolest story ever, and before that I had bought the fable hook, line and sinker. There I sat, year after year, writing my letter addressed to the North Pole, never knowing it would end up in Mom’s box of “Tam’s cute creations”. I sat on the laps of many mall Santas, and while I was always a tad suspicious, and bold enough to point out he never looked the same as last year, I nonetheless told him exactly what I expected to be under that tree come Christmas morning; it was just too risky not to. Besides, Santa always laughed funny, like my Pop-Pop; he was nothing like that huge, terrifying rabbit that came around in springtime. (Why are mall Easter bunnies always SO creepy?)
As I grew older, I eventually stopped buying this malarkey narrative and wanted to meet the kid who came up with the whole story of Santa and his magical flying reindeer, because even at 8 years old I could not believe that an adult had wrangled up this tall tale, with its so many insults to the laws of physics (not to mention the space-time continuum), and had just expected children to eat it up like chocolate! But then again I was never a “normal” kid, and being the kid that I was, I of course always asked too many questions, debating the probability of this amazing feat of a man so obviously out of shape. I further argued that even if Santa only spent 5 minutes in every child’s home, there was still no way he could pull it all off in one night (I even had fractions and equations to prove it). And perhaps the argument to completely piss off the majority of adults in my family was that the reindeer should’ve had names like Ruth and Betsy, not obvious masculine names (sans Prancer) because my Zoo Cards had taught me that male deer drop their antlers in winter, therefore Santa’s reindeer had to be girls! Yeah, I was a tough kid to love, I imagine.
While I strongly encourage one to hang onto your childlike sense of wonder and imagination, what if we simply tried using this special time of year to teach children the importance of gratitude, appreciation and just BEING? Rather than filling their minds with the exotic grandeur of the” flying fat man” and his cookie addiction-driven night of fulfilling America’s materialistic desires, we just breathe…and enjoy those things in our lives which cannot be bought. Like Uncle Bob for always getting soup stuck in his beard while he shares the same old war stories every single year, or Aunt Rose for drinking too much wine and laughing so hard she pees a little and has to tell everyone, and cousin Mitch who lives and works seven states away, and whom you never see…except for this time of year.
Over time, religious and non-religious folks alike have come to celebrate this holiday in their own ways, while mostly sticking to the basic core traditions such as decorating the tree, hanging stockings and of course, exchanging gifts. But when all of those gifts have been unwrapped and all of the trees are out on the curb, what we are left with is mere reflection. We can choose to see only all of this cool new “stuff” we received, or we can choose to look a little deeper and see just how amazing our own little world always was, simply because we are alive.
How about we not let this time of year stress us out, but guide us inward? And let’s not get more wrapped up than the presents we exchange; for like all of time, the Holiday Season is fleeting. It’s never really been about the monetary value, but rather the momentary value. And as with all moments, it brings experiences and memories to be cherished; and the reminder that presence is the greatest gift of all.
To you and yours…Happy Holidays! XOXO
Tamara Rant is a Co-Editor of CLN as well as a Licensed Reiki Master, heart-centered Graphic Designer and a progressive voice in social media activism & awareness. Connect with Tamara on Facebook by visiting Prana Paws/Healing Hearts Reiki or go to RantDesignMedia.com