This week’s Courier Herald column:
Welcome to the midpoint of our holiday season. We’ve got Thanksgiving in the bank, Hanukkah underway as of December 18th, Christmas on the 25th, and then of course New Year’s just around the corner.
In Georgia, it’s not only permissible but now encouraged to consider the holiday season ending on January 9th. That is the first Monday after the twelve days of Christmas are complete, and the day we play the last college football game of the season.
Be sure to remind Santa that it would be really nice if UGA could repeat as National Champions this year. We’ve been good. Really, really good.
If you haven’t given serious thought to your resolutions yet…you’re probably also not going to give serious action towards their implementation. But there’s still time.
Time, of course, is what we seem to lack most this time of year. In addition to what we’re normally doing to get through each day and week, there’s a lot of extra thrown in here. More gatherings, more shopping, more traffic in the way of our gatherings and shopping… That’s a lot more stress.
Try not to think about all the messages about calm and reflection when you’re stuck in traffic, trying to get that next gift before you have to mingle with awkward co-workers or distant relatives wearing ugly sweaters. The two contrasts don’t mix well, and yet we do it to ourselves every year. This is not a recipe for Christmas cheer.
For some, this stress foments into ill-advised action. Too many still maintain there is a War on Christmas because some retailers don’t give you the personalized holiday greeting you desire. I now repeat my annual refrain, “Nothing spreads the love of Jesus and the meaning of Christmas like yelling at a 16-year-old cashier for following corporate guidelines and not assuming and acknowledging your specific religious preferences.”
Feel free to read that last line as many times as you need until you understand sarcasm. Then seriously, don’t be that person.
I believe part of the stress we manufacture for ourselves during the holidays is that we measure ourselves against the Norman Rockwell paintings and ubiquitous advertisements where everyone is good looking, giving our significant others trucks and puppies. We know that’s not the reasons for this season, but envy – even when we don’t realize that’s what we’re experiencing – is real, and is the enemy of the holidays we wish we were having.
We then add the financial burdens of the season. We’re spending more, on goods that cost more. While statistics show most of us are still doing well with unemployment rates low, we see the increasing number of layoffs and predictions of recession just around the corner. Every swipe of a credit card is a bit more stress.
After almost 3 years of pandemic and life in general, there will again be empty seats at our holiday tables. For those experiencing the “first” empty seat for a loved one, there’s additional stress and loneliness.
If this is all starting to sound too depressing, don’t let it be. That isn’t the point. Quite the contrary.
To understand the meanings in our season, we have to understand what we’re feeling in our large and mixed bag of emotions, and sort them out individually. It’s OK to have these feelings. It means you’re normal, and alive.
Once we understand where and how we’re being pulled into moments of negativity, it’s a lot easier to deal with or set aside these thoughts for the much happier ones. Don’t let the ambiguous but very real conflicting priorities and stress rob you of your holidays.
In the Christmas carol “Joy To The World” there’s a refrain that says “Let every heart prepare him room.” This is a season of preparation, whether it’s about oil in your candles or a baby in a manger. A new year is coming; this year is almost in the books.
Past and future, they are celebrated together. Amidst the hustle and bustle, it’s a good time to get quiet when you can, and prepare. Be present.
If you’re where you want to be this holiday season, congratulations. Enjoy the season and help others enjoy it too.
If for some reason you’re not, and the stresses and burdens are overwhelming, that’s ok too. Your next year gives you 365 chances to make small changes, one day at a time.
May you find peace on this earth, and may we all exhibit goodwill toward others. Happy holidays. All of them.