With the exception of a few, most people look forward to the holidays. It’s a time to re-connect with family and friends, follow the unwritten law that it's OK to eat foods that are forbidden the rest of the year, and generally wind the year down to a slower pace.
Did say slower pace? In recent years, it seems like the opposite is true; stress levels seem to soar during the holidays. Did you know that more suicides occur during this than any other time of the year?
First of all, there's the getting together for the holiday itself. I remember as a kid that there was never any questioning the date or time — on Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always went to Grandma’s house. Period. As an adult, I don’t understand how that worked year after year, because it left no margin for getting together with the other side of the family.
Today, that seems to be the "war" with most all families, mine included. Trying to find a day that the extended family can get together is the next thing to impossible. Unfortunately, this is mainly true because of broken relationships. Not only do you have to consider present family members, but also the ex’s, which can include the in-laws and sometimes the out-laws. Ugh!
Perhaps this is why the holidays are strung out so far. If they can’t get everyone together on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, many families opt to celebrate the weekend before or after, or sometimes two weeks before or after.
No wonder retailers start bombarding us with Christmas before Halloween ever flies away on its broomstick. I used to pick up all the ingredients for the holiday fruitcake between Christmas and New Year’s. Then, the stores started setting the candied fruits out around Thanksgiving. Now I need to get it before Halloween if I want any at all.
The same goes for the media. Hallmark Movie Channel started playing their Christmas movies two days before Halloween this year. We started hearing holiday commercials about that same time, also. I even heard a couple of Christmas carols already. How sad it is to commercialize one of the most beautiful and important holidays of all. By the time the actual day arrives, we are too tired of hearing about it to actually enjoy it!
OK, I got a little off track. Back to finding that one day that suits everyone to get together. So you finally find a day that works, but what about the time? Again, I'm dating myself, but I remember when hardly any businesses were open on Sundays, and only a few on Saturdays. Now you can hardly find any that are not open seven days a week. So because of work schedules, some people want to eat early (at noon), some late, some for breakfast, and some want to come for dessert in the evening. The web becomes more tangled as we go.
However, suppose that you actually find that magical day AND time for the holiday get-together. Now there's the issue of mixing modern technology with the family dinner. After going through all the stress of finally getting everyone together for the holiday, isn’t the main agenda just to enjoy being around family and friends? Even so, how many people bring their cell phone to the Thanksgiving dinner table? And how many sneak a peek to see if they got a text or missed call? After all, you have to check because it just might be from Aunt So-and-So who hasn’t shown up yet. You don’t have to answer, you know who you are. I am taking the fifth on this one, too. What if this year we just enjoyed being with the people that we are with? After all, we worked so hard to be with them.
If I seem to be sarcastic, I sincerely don’t mean to be. We are all in this together, caught up in this fast-paced world that we live in. We have created this stressful time of year for ourselves. We have commercialized a season that was meant to be just the opposite — a season of love, tradition, and joyous fellowship. Instead of sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the beauty of the season, we try to cram more and more into it each year. Ironically, the more joyous that we try to make it, the less joy we feel.
For this reason, I decided to go back to the basics this year (at least partially). Instead of trying to buy the biggest, newest, and best gift for some people on my list, I am making gifts. It is not because I am against shopping, but rather because I want to get back into what the season is all about. I want to give for the sheer joy of giving, not because I feel obligated. Giving from the heart is what it is all about.
So, guess what? It is nearing Thanksgiving, and my projects are not as far along as I would like them to be. Yes, that is causing stress, but it is good stress, if that makes any sense. When you create something with your hands, no matter how simple, you can feel all the love that goes into it. Getting deals on Black Friday doesn’t give me that same warm and fuzzy feeling.
So this year, even though I know I can’t change media or change the world, in my world I can try and celebrate what the season should be. As I sit around the Thanksgiving table, I want to try and appreciate each and every face that is there, because we never know when that face will become a memory.
For this very reason, my family will all fall prey to another year of frantic stress, trying to make everything come together. I am trying realyl hard to remember that it is OK if every Christmas card doesn’t get mailed the day after Thanksgiving, if I forget the sweet potato casserole, and if the Christmas cookies don’t get baked. I once was told that we have too many friends. I don’t think that is possible, even if it does make our world more hectic. As long as I remember the important stuff, then blessed be the chaos!
Photo by Fotolia/Michael Flippo
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