I’m usually a stickler for tradition when it comes to October, November and December. I insist on proceeding through the holidays in an orderly fashion. Halloween must come first without even a hint of other celebrations to come. Next is my birthday which usually heralds sweater season and maybe even a few boot wearing days. After that is Thanksgiving and only the Friday after that feast should there be even the smallest sign of Christmas. This year I’m ready to throw up my tree, turn on some carols and enjoy a big mug of spiked eggnog and we haven’t even sat down for the annual turkey day dinner yet. Honestly I’m not sure what has gotten in to me but I don’t mind at all that some of my neighbors and friends have already decorated their trees and put lights on their houses. For whatever reason I just think we need a little Christmas and we need it now.
It’s been a tough year for anyone who has even remotely paid attention to politics. I had hoped that with the election all of the drama would be over and we would be able to just sit back and enjoy the holiday season. Unfortunately that little pipe dream is shattered. Instead I continue to hear barbs being traded between people who at one time were friends. Now we are all being cautioned not to even mention politics at the family gatherings that we will soon attend. I still harbor a fairly unrealistic hope that we will soon realize the folly of our ways and set aside the animosities that have built to a fever pitch.
It would be nice if we were to remember what the season is really all about. Thanksgiving should be a time of gratitude no matter how harsh the rest of the year has been. The fact that any of us are still standing and breathing should be enough for which to be thankful. We should not forget that we actually have a say in our government and the finalization of an election doesn’t change that. We have representatives with whom to communicate. We have the power of the pen. There are many many ways that we may live our freedoms. We sometimes forget that the pilgrims who are so much a part of the history of our annual celebration came to avoid persecution. They preferred risking their lives to submitting to the demands of a nation that outlawed their religious beliefs. Those who made it through the first year in a strange and dangerous land understood the import of their new found independence.
Christmas is all about the birth of a man who advocated a new and loving way of living. Whether we believe that He was the son of God or not, there is no denying that His words and teachings were revolutionary. His was a vision of peace, acceptance and unconditional love. We have commercialized Christmas to the point of burying His important message under a flood of consumerism instead of remembering the way that He taught us to live. Now more than ever we need His lessons to resonate with all people regardless of where they live, what they believe or how they look. Ultimately our hope lies in following the example of Jesus.
I have always loved this time of year because everyone seemed happy and ready to let bygones be bygones. It was a time for setting aside disagreements and beginning anew. The new year provided us with an opportunity to start over with a clean slate, a moment to try one more time to set things right. I find myself wondering and worrying that our natural tendencies to forgive and forget may not be as generous as in the past. There is a world of hurt out there and I don’t see it changing any time soon. Still I really hope that if we can just hurry Christmas along a bit we might find ourselves realizing that nothing is quite as important as our friendships and relations. Sure we might have that crazy uncle who has some strange ideas and there may be the long time friend who has gone a bit overboard with her newest cause but in the end we love them enough to overlook the irritating aspects of their personalities. We know in our hearts that none of us are perfect so we give the people about whom we care the benefit of the doubt as long as they seem to try.
Life is far shorter than we dare to admit. The nice thing about Christmas is that it gives us the perfect excuse to get together with family, friends and neighbors. We gather around the warmth of the tree and munch on cookies and worry about the diets next week. We feel the joy of lighting up someone’s eyes with a special gift. We finally take the time to pause from our labors long enough to laugh and relax and enjoy the company of people that we may not have seen for a long time. Somehow philosophies don’t seem to matter that much when we are exchanging hugs and remembering times spent together.
So I’m all for getting the Christmas show on the road as soon as possible. I may even put up my tree before Thanksgiving, something that has been akin to a mortal sin in the past. If hurrying Santa Claus elicits just one smile that might not otherwise have been there it will have been worth the effort. I want to go the the Nutcracker ballet and see the lights in the zoo. I plan to blast carols from my radio all day long for the next six weeks. I’m going to make cookies and fudge and have them ready to give to my neighbors. I can’t wait to hear the ringing bells of the Salvation Army and I plan to contribute to every red bucket that I see. I pledge to chase the Grinch and Scrooge out of town. It will be all Elf for me, sugary and sweet and happy as can be. “Away with predictions of doom and gloom,” I say. “We’ve got this!” I don’t intend to let anyone steal my joy. I’ll even don fur trimmed shorts if the weather stays warm.
It’s A Wonderful Life particularly speaks to me this year. We are all George. The world needs us. It is up to each one of us to be the change and the optimism that we wish to see. We can start by doing up Christmas in the very best way and then taking that spirit with us all throughout the new year. If there is anything that I have learned it is that we may get knocked down but there is always a way to get back up again. My challenge to everyone is to begin celebrating starting today. Do something that makes you or someone else feel good. Don’t limit yourself to twelve days or a month. Carry Christmas in your heart everyday.