The holidays are rapidly approaching, and by “holidays” I mean Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Diwali (which is actually already upon us), Kwanza, New Years, and all the other holidays that all the various peoples of the world celebrate in winter, the darkest time of the year, and the time when we most need lights and cheer and the support of our communities. Shorter days and longer nights combined with the colder temperatures tends to make us more depressed, and seeing all the happy families – especially the fantasies of “Happy Normal Families” and comparing where ours fell short tends to increase that. This is the time of year when suicides are at their absolute highest, as is the consumption of alcohol (and not just because there are 10 people with a glass of wine around the table) and drunk driving.
In the midst of all this, we celebrate by trampling other people in a bid to get a Special Black Friday Deal of some toy we really could live without (and have been living without until a glossy catalog pushed through our mail slot convinced us how LACKING our life was), we mutter Bah, Humbug under out breath as we shove through the swollen crowds that seem to be everywhere – the mall, the grocery store, the streets, and we seem to go out of our way to actively LOOK to feel offended. Whether it’s Starbucks’ now-infamous red cups (so much outrage over a disposable paper cup?!), or whether the correct greeting should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays (who knew that could be a big fight?! Why can’t we just say whatever we say and trust the other person is mature enough to take it in the joyful spirit intended?), or whether there is a large public display that is Christian or Jewish or Both or None or Other in the mall/city hall/park.
Truly, it astonishes and horrifies me. We are among the luckiest people in the world. If you are reading this, you probably have some shelter from the elements, food and clean water, an education, some kind of basic healthcare, and access to technology. Odds are you have a great deal more than that, but that list alone is enough to put you in the privileged class. Hopefully, you have family or friends or SOMEONE who cares about you and loves you. Even if you don’t, even if you are all alone, this time of year is still one to be celebrated, cherished, and carefully nurtured and tended. Not rushed through as though the time between Halloween and Christmas is just extra space to be gotten over with as fast as possible.
This is the time of year to remember that after the darkness comes the light. After winter comes spring, and many things need the cold and frost to start their life. Short days become long again. The cycle of the seasons continues endlessly and with it, a gentle reminder that no matter how bad our lives are right now, there can be a lessening of pain and slowly a rebirth and renewal of our own. Now, when the pressing darkness makes us feel like little isolated islands and has us unconsciously hurrying home every night to our families or shelter, now is when we most need to remember that we are NOT little islands, but part of larger whole, and a greater good. Charity giving increases around Christmas, but I don’t just mean that. Stretch your hand out and make connections within your community. Mindfully celebrate and enjoy each holiday in turn – without rushing through them just to get to the next. Say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, be grateful for what you have and think long and hard about just how much you need that new gizmo, stay out of the stores around Thanksgiving so they learn to close and let employees visit their families, don’t give in to the retailers’ desperate attempts to force us into a buying frenzy now. Give homemade cookies, buy something from an artist, give the gift of your time.
Be one of the bright sparks of light that gleam against the darkness.