During the holiday season there are numerous essays on the true meaning of Christmas. But I’ve yet to read one that struck a cord within my heart. There are religious treatises; secular stories about peace on earth & good will towards men, economic reports of retail sales, and arguments as to whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.
I celebrate Christmas as one who has been raised as a Christian; but I also appreciate that the USA is multi-cultural and there are many who do not celebrate Christian holidays. But I’ve also lived in places where Christmas was merely a secular and shopping holiday as opposed to a Christian celebration. So I have little tolerance for those in the USA who are offended when somebody wishes them a “Merry Christmas”. Alternatively, I am equally dumbfounded when one wishes another human being “Happy Holidays” and is met with negativity.
Christmas and all other seasonal holidays encourage us to celebrate family. For those who follow the major world religions, their scriptures teach the importance of family and tolerance. Choosing to express outrage, negativity or offense when one wishes another a good tiding is anathema to those who founded those major religious foundations.
Perhaps it would benefit all in the human race to eschew the commercial Christmas and celebrate gratitude for family – even those who cause us angst. Family dynamics are truly exemplars of world politics on a smaller scale. Among families we see war, peace, détente, a cold war, tolerance, demilitarized zones, peace talks, skirmishes, stalemates, battles, white flags, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, joys, sorrows, celebrations, concessions and surrender. These are the same experiences that are played out on a world stage. But families feel these events on the nuclear, personal level.
Too often we allow our holiday celebrations to center around things that truly don’t matter: gifts, how much somebody spent on one versus another, a scorecard, how one offers good tidings to another. But really, does any of that matter? For me it does not.
My husband and I do not exchange gifts. We do not buy gifts for anybody but the grandchildren that we see. We try to express our appreciation for our loved ones and each other everyday. For us a celebration of any holiday is expressed best by sharing time with those we love. Because time passes too quickly and nothing is more important to either of us than letting those we love know that we love them. We show that love by making the effort to spend time with them.
If I have to choose between a sweater or a gift card or an extra hour with somebody I love, it will always be the extra hour. That time will fill me with memories that cannot be taken away. That for me is the true meaning of Christmas – appreciating the glory of the gift of time with family and friends.
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