Day 11 – What holiday are you grateful for?

I hope that Christmastime will always be magical to me.

As I’ve gotten older, I have recognized the commercialism during the holidays. I’ve watched with dismay as the decorations and ornaments are set out in stores earlier and earlier. I see the growing popularity of creating gift registries and distributing wish lists, and increasingly people hand out envelopes of cash or gift cards instead of a thoughtfully-selected gift from the heart.

As I’ve gotten older, I have been disappointed to hear anger during the holidays. People are concerned that every holiday is not equally represented. People are concerned that the “true meaning” of the holidays is lost — and people are in disagreement over what the “true meaning” actually is. People are unwilling to accept holiday messages and good cheer at face value. We hesitate to share festive greetings, because it is too easy to offend others no matter our actual intent.

As I’ve gotten older, our lives are busier and simple pleasures have become major inconveniences in our frazzled efforts to get through the day-to-day tasks that we burden ourselves with but do not ENJOY! Instead of escaping for a day into a winter wonderland and trekking with our families to find the perfect tree, we are opting to grab a tree at the grocery store like just another piece of produce, or even drag a synthetic tree from the basement or attic at the last minute. Or go without. (Assuming this is even a tradition in the home — this paragraph was not meant to insult anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or decorate a tree)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced the disconcerting emotions of walking past a panhandler while I’m shopping for gifts and a charitable organization’s commercial pleading for funds to save starving children overheard in the background while I’m enjoying a holiday feast.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I am not a religious person. Jesus is as real to me as Santa Claus. And it doesn’t mean that I’m a lost soul who needs to be saved. I am capable of goodness and humanity regardless of my religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I am a spiritual person. I believe there is something intangible that connects me to my family and friends, to my enemies, to strangers…

There is love. There is compassion and understanding. There is sympathy and regret. There are memories and traditions. There is the desire to create and the ability to appreciate beauty.

I am grateful for Christmas, because even though I’ve grown older and become more cynical, the magic of Christmastime is still able to overwhelm me.

I believe that during Christmastime, the intangible forces of human nature are magnified. The world is more beautiful with its lights and ribbons and glitter and gold, our hearts are filled to overflowing with love and nostalgia. It is so painful to see need and suffering this time of year that we are more driven to collect food and clothing, volunteer at shelters, “adopt” families, visit hospitals, donate to charitable organizations.

We smile more. We reach out more. We sing more. We hug for longer.

I know there are many who disagree. There are plenty who hate Christmastime or who attribute a completely different perspective to it.

For me, regardless of what is going on in my life, whatever depths I have sunk to, the magic of Christmas is able to buoy me so that for a short while I can float and breathe and see my world through frosted crystalline kaleidoscope glasses, in some small way to be like a child again. I am grateful for this, because I don’t want to imagine what I’d become if Christmas magic could no longer affect me.