Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it taught me or illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being a human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for rest and reflection, pour yourself a comforting beverage, and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan
Earlier this week, I spent an evening wrapping gifts. And when I say “spent an evening” I should clarify that I spent the better part of an afternoon plus the entire evening wrapping. Hey, when you have five kids, even just a few gifts for each can turn into a huge pile. Like I do every year, I turned the process of wrapping into a festive little party of its own. I prepared my wrapping location (my bedroom) by cleaning up and smoothing the blankets tight, turned on my favorite Christmas playlist, poured myself a generous glass of good wine, and got started wrapping while Jon kept the kids sequestered in the living room and occasionally brought armloads of gifts up from the basement.
As the Christmas radio station I was listening to played a mix of old favorites and new versions of old favorites, it suddenly occurred to me just how enormous and far-reaching and utterly unique the genre of holiday music is. You’ve got pop stars recording 16th century English hymns alongside new songs written just this year. Radio stations play nonstop music from our parents and grandparents’ heydays, the same songs we’ve heard every year since we were children, and that our mothers and fathers heard when they were children.
And it’s not just music: Christmas movies, Christmas episodes of every sitcom and drama, a whole slew of special, and often nostalgic, Christmas-themed commercials replay year after year. We’re all caught up in the magic, it seems. No other holiday is so universally embraced, or has captured the imaginations of so many, as the story of an infant humbly born to bring peace on earth. Or, to others, the story of a kindly real-life saint from the third century or his imaginary counterpart. Or, to others, the end of dwindling light and the return of the sun.
This time of year, there’s always a lot of argument about the “right” way to celebrate Christmas. It’s true meaning. Or what Christmas is becoming, or losing, in this glittery mingle of Christian and Pagan traditions, this newfound commercialism colliding with old-world simplicity.
Frankly, I don’t understand all the hubbub.
We spend enough of the year being cynical, don’t we? Questioning other people’s motives and decisions and choices; shooting snarky or suspicious little arrows into anything that threatens to be too happy, too positive, too…anything.
This time of year, I choose not to second-guess other people’s interpretations of the holiday. I’m too busy enjoying it for myself.
Can’t we all just agree that it’s amazing, and inspiring, to be in the middle of a time that brings out something in everyone who observes it? Whether it’s the joy of celebrating the birth of a Savior, or the joy in getting to make a child’s eyes light up, or the joy of having a culturally-acceptable excuse to pull back on work so you can enjoy time with family and friends, or simply the joy of knowing that out of darkness comes light…Christmas is all about joy.
And joy, and the expression of it, is to my eyes always a holy sort of thing. It’s the reason we’re here – to make other people’s lives better; to give and to receive; to celebrate and honor the fruits of the universe, whether we believe they were placed there by a deity or sheer chance.
Why should it threaten me how anyone else decides to celebrate (or not celebrate) the Christmas holiday? We’re having enough fun over here for a whole block full of families; it matters not to me whether my neighbor believes in Jesus, Santa or both – or just skips the whole thing.
Yes, I understand the worry about over-materialization. But let’s remember that we all have the power to celebrate the holidays in our own way.
And let’s not forget how amazing, really, the Christmas season really is.
There’s no other time of year that dozens, possibly hundreds, of people will go out of their way to wish me well, whether by saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Peace be with you.” There is no other time of year when small acts of kindness and courtesy are so easily and frequently dealt out. There is no other time of year when every downtown is lit and decorated, when ordinary people give up entire weekends to bake, when families gather en masse as a matter of course.
There is no other time of year when I work so hard to bring magic to our home, to give my children excitement, to be a little kinder to neighbors and strangers. There is no other time of year when I make as big an effort to bring my own family together, to connect with friends. I am a better person, neighbor, sister, friend and mother during the holidays than I could possibly sustain all year round, but that’s OK – my life is better all year because of the few weeks surrounding Christmas.
What I love most about this time of year is a feeling of solidarity, of shared purpose – that all around me, people are celebrating in some of the same ways I am, regardless of their beliefs. It’s a celebration of the human spirit, of finding light in the darkness – a celebration of joy itself. As long as there are enough other people who feel the same, I don’t think Christmas is in any danger of losing its soul.
So however you celebrate – or even if you’re just watching on the sidelines – I’m cheering you on. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and the joy that is this season to you.
No Sunday Reads this week! Enjoy the holidays with your family.