(disclaimer: I’m not endorsing the United Methodist church–I just think this is a good message.)
Christmas is complicated. At least, that’s my experience, but I would guess it’s a hard time of year for others in the community as well. In my case, the holidays stir up a deep loneliness and longing for family. Some years it applies pressure about giving the perfect gift, and other years stress results from not knowing what I’ll do on Christmas. Maybe I’ll stay home alone with my cat. Maybe I’ll find a place to volunteer my time for others. Maybe I’ll ask a friend if I can join their Christmas traditions.
In the past, Christmas meant family drama. It meant being a child and unable to control the violence or pain around me. It meant apprehension about the return to school after winter break, because I knew my friends would ask questions about what I did and the presents I received, and I would feel judged. If I’m honest, I actually have very few happy childhood memories involving any holiday, but it’s especially true about Christmas.
Despite my age or social/familial situation, Christmas has frequently inspired guilt. The holiday was supposed to be about peace, goodwill and Love, yet I would think about myself and feel envious of friends. I felt intense guilt as a little girl for the gifts given to me by my mother and grandma, because I knew they had to scrimp and save to give them to me. And coming from somewhat of a Messianic Jewish background, I carried guilt about Christmas being a secular holiday and not the actual day or season of Christ’s birth.
The truth is that I carry a lot of Christmas baggage. But I am slowly unpacking those issues and creating my own traditions and finding a bit of joy and different outlets to direct my Love.
How about you? Is Christmas Cheer a reality in your life? Or does it weight you down with pressure, excessive spending, too many calories, or arguments with extended family? Does it raise unpleasant memories or confuse you about religion or faith? I think that for most people, Christmas is at least somewhat of a mixed bag. It carries great cultural and spiritual meaning, so it can be difficult to overcome expectations and experience joy of the season.
To be completely honest, I believe that the point of Christmas has been lost in many if not most homes. Regardless of your religious conviction, Christmas is supposed to be about Love. And Love does not equal presents. Love does not equal food. Love does not equal expectations.
This is the time of year to pull together and Love someone. The crazy Aunt who makes you gawdy reindeer sweaters. The nosy grandmother who asks what’s wrong with you and when you’re going to settle down. The parents who just refuse to treat you like an adult. Yes, Christmas is the time to love the difficult people in our lives, while clinging tightly to the ones who are there for us, who are so unbelievably easy to love.
So if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed this season, take heart and remember that Love is the operative word here. Maybe you can start some new traditions that take some stress off of the whole family.
One of my personal Christmas traditions is watching Christmas or holiday films, like Elf, and the Snowman (above).
In the comments below, feel free to share your thoughts about Christmas–your struggles, your fond memories and traditions, your suggestions for others… anything you want. I’ll follow up with you all by making another post on Christmas day. I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts!