Note: This was actually written for the Neighbors, Inc. newsletter. In an effort to dispel the horrors of the impending holiday frenzy I’m “repurposing” the piece for blog friends. Hope it helps.
In truth we all experience a bit of inner peace as the days shorten, the air cools, and the thoughts of the serenity of the Christmas season slowly embraces us – if we let it. Christmas can be a day or it can be a season like no other. The fact is, it depends on each of us to make the most and share the most of the possibilities. The gift we give ourselves and those around us is to slow down, absorb, take time to remember, to wonder, to share.
On the one hand, the commercial world bursts forth with an unending display of the options for purchase, indulgence, glitter and unvarnished merchandizing. On the other extreme, Christian churches organize and celebrate beautiful liturgical rites that retell the Christmas story as it has observed over the past two centuries.
What’s interesting is that, in the world at large, there is a subtle braiding of the two strands – traditions, stories, legends and more that reflect the biblical narrative and yet belong somehow to the public writ large. These seasonal traditions offer a special opportunity for all of us, regardless of religious persuasion, to explore some human strengths, particularly the inclination of people of good will to share their lives, their homes, their blessings.
The time is now to silence the din and to spend time on reflecting then projecting a proactive approach to the holiday season, an approach that favors peace over purchase and a thoughtful focus on the real meaning. The result can be a season that is enriched by stories and traditions that bring families, neighbors, ethnic groups and generations into new circles of understanding and sharing.
The best start is a thoughtful and sincere deliberation in which we as individuals, as family and community members consciously focus on a process of taking Christmas seriously. The process can be a chore – or a delightful experience. As is often the case, group think works best. It gets the juices flowing and keeps the focus intact. Some possibilities:
Old fashioned though they may be, classic films are both tear jerkers and heart warmers. The classics are all available now one or many formats. Think Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol or maybe How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Check online or at the local library.
A shared read is a wondrous experience. Ignore the surface fluff and dip into the rich heritage of written and recorded words. This may be the time to revisit Christmas with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Or relish the extraordinary Christmas Memory or to listen as Truman Capote reminiscences on his Alabama childhood and his quirky cousins’ delightful preparation of fruitcakes to be mailed to people they admire. Or who can resist the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter first published decades ago in the New York Sun.
The web is rich with seasonal reading possibilities, of course – plus a lot of junk. Look for delicious morsels such as the list of “inspirational Christmas Stories” on TLC.
Or explore anything that bears the name of Tomie de Paola – Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, or Country Angel Christmas or The Legend of the Poinsettia, a lovely Hispanic legend. And don’t miss The Clown of God, the best ever way to start a conversation about the gift of self. Following the clown theme, Jingle, the Christmas Clown or The Legend of Old Befana that tells the story of the cranky old lady who is the icon for the Feast of the Three Kings. The list goes on.
So many stories, so little time. The challenge is to take time, to carve special times into the over-stimulated, over-crowded days of the holiday season.
If we burrow through the trappings and dig to the nugget of the season we find there probably is time after all to settle down, breathe deep, and inhale some good old fashioned stories that set a tone.