The Holidays are not just one thing. Under an umbrella of tinsel & good will, a whole host of programs, interests, agendas, and traditions swirl. “The Holiday Season” incorporates everything from the Montgomery Village Jazz Band Winter Concert to an upgrade to the new iphone 15, as if these two had anything to do with each other. They don’t, of course, except for the fact that each are co-opting this next one month stretch to promote and enhance their appeal. Is that OK? Can the holidays be used to boost any and all pursuits? Why not?
Because maybe some pursuits should be prioritized over others. No one would disagree that a family dinner on Christmas day is more important than getting 50% off on that turtle-neck sweater. But is it possible that the sheer quantity of amusements and purchases blurs the vision of what the holidays can and should be? Might we shortchange the awe and wonder of this season by equalizing all seasonal activities, trying to ‘take it all in’?
If so, I humbly offer a short list of Things to Do This Season. Think of planning a trip to Paris, France for example: one could easily spend two weeks there visiting world-class sights. But if you missed four out of these five, you’d never forgive yourself: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, and a French café.
What are the five (5) things we shouldn’t be forgiving ourselves for if we miss in this holiday season. Here’s my list:
- Spend time with family. Yes, I mean the biological one. Whether they are your best friends or not is not the point: you only have one family of origin and working on these relationships (unless they are toxic) is just healthy. For a lot of reasons. And out of all the crazy and unhealthy things it promotes, our culture has graciously made a couple of days of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas (at least in the Christian tradition), sacrosanct for being with family. Like it’s uncool NOT to be with family on those days. So take advantage of this cultural cue!
- Celebrate. This is critical: if we can’t lift up and cherish some aspect of our life at some point in the year, mental health issues will ‘L’chaim’ is the Jewish term: “to life!” It is simply an honest acknowledgement of the wonder and beauty of our existence and all it offers. Fortunately, celebration can take many forms: parties, concerts, dinners, shows, get-togethers. A glass of wine, an appointment at the local coffee shop, an evening walk – myriad are its expressions. But if we don’t stop to be glad about some dimension of life this holiday season, we really are missing out!
- Pursue the Spiritual. Most faith traditions have some special offering this season (even if they have been forced to by cultural pressure). Take full advantage! Most people have underdeveloped spiritual lives anyway and if this time of year can jumpstart a new commitment to earnest living, a life-changing encounter with the Living God, or just an awakened perspective on life, it will be more than worth the effort. Special worship services, religious performances, prayer exercises and more will remind you of what’s important in life and encourage pathways to live out your beliefs. For example, a new niche tradition has developed recently: the Blue Christmas, a worship experience for those who have lost loved ones in December and don’t feel like celebrating but want a chance to somberly reflect on life. Do something spiritual!
- Do Something with your Community. A holiday that is not shared is no holiday at all. We all need to stay connected with our neighbors and this season multiplies opportunities to do so. Elsie and I will be taking my mom to a concert at the Strathmore this week. Some communities have public Christmas tree lightings in the center of town. The office Christmas party is an event, if you are privy to one, not to be missed! If none of these suit your fancy, create your own community gathering! It may be the best holiday you’ve ever had!
- Give back. Most religious traditions emphasize some form of love this season. In my tradition, Christmas celebrates God’s greatest gift to humankind: the gift of his son, Jesus. And so, to celebrate, offering something for the common good commemorates this great act of love. Give to a charity, give a gift to someone who cannot repay, volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen, buy a toy to donate, drop a dollar or two in that ubiquitous Salvation Army kettle. Such a single act may be the singular most ‘holiday’ thing you do!
There are lots of possibilities this season – the options are endless. Maybe you can fit in lots more than these five. But do at least these! You may wonder why “give presents” didn’t make the list. Well, partly because it’s such a given I know you’ll do it anyway so why include it? But seriously, as core to the holiday season as it may feel, I think it’s contribution to the holiday spirit has been grossly overrated. If this concerns you, don’t worry: you can easily incorporate gift-giving into most if not all the five items above!
Schedule these now! Schedule these first! Then let the other stuff which is of lesser importance fill in the cracks. If you do, you’ll be majoring on the majors. Then you won’t regret how you spent your holidays.
Now for my shameless plug: if you bring clothes to donate (see details) and attend our Christmas party this Saturday, you have a good chance of banging out all five in one night! How’s that for an offer? For more on that note, go HERE.
Have a blessed holiday season! And don’t miss out on the good stuff.