Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Illusions

Christmas is many things to many people. If you ask a hundred different people what Christmas is all about, you will most likely get a hundred different responses. It is celebrated in many ways among many different people and yet, all across this world, it is a day of great importance.

When I was a child, the Christmas season was one of the happiest times of the year to me. My mom would bake Christmas cookies and candy, and together we would decorate the beautiful cookies with icing and sprinkles. I remember the taste of the fudge, so full of sugar and chocolate that it made your taste buds dance with glee. I remember the divinity and the peanut brittle along with many other types of Christmas treats.

Leading up to the days before Christmas, I was a child full of smiles, waiting for Santa Claus to bring me those special few gifts. It didn’t really matter to me what I got, just as long as there was some special gift for me to unwrap. I was happier receiving a gift than being concerned with what I was given. It did not matter to me what the gift was. It was the joy of the surprise and the endurance of the wait that I longed for each Christmas.

Through the many church programs, singing and playing the Christmas songs for the Christmas story, I found myself wanting to perform these moments forever and ever. I enjoyed playing the piano as well as singing the songs at the retirement homes, where the faces of the elderly beamed with joy. Tears would come to my eyes as these beautiful songs filled the room, and I felt the peace and love of the season flowing through me.

As time passed by, my life endured many things that were difficult beyond measure. I hid within the joy of Christmas from the pain that surrounded and engulfed me. It became my hope and fantasy but it also was my illusion. For me to realize that anything but happiness, joy, and good cheer existed, took me from the illusion that I was living in life. It grew into a conflict between trying to deal with reality and trying to enjoy a world of fantasy. The pain that I felt was mixed in with the joys of the season, and my heart longed with sadness, my eyes filled deep with tears.

As I stated at the beginning of this, Christmas means many things to many people. I wish I could write that it was all joy and magic and make believe that is portrayed through the season. I wish I could write that it is a time of family being together that I was born into, but I cannot write those words. For if I tried to make it appear that everything was full of cheer for me during this time, I would be living an illusion. As difficult as it is, I face a reality that is anything but full of cheer.

During the holiday season, I see so many people spending countless dollars of worry to make sure they buy the best present they can buy for another person. Whether it is family or friends, the stress of picking that right present is a struggle to many. I know completely just how difficult it can be to spend what little you could save throughout the year to buy Christmas gifts for family members, only to be shunned and ridiculed for the gift you bought and gave them. Christmas has to be about so much more than giving gifts or being with family.

Of course, we should not forget that the corporate retail market believes Christmas is a success when every man, woman, and child is out buying armfuls of gifts to shower their love upon their fellow humans. For according to the retailers, if you aren’t buying Christmas gifts and putting yourself in debt, you truly aren’t human. So many in our country celebrate this time by spending thousands of dollars to show they love one another.

Yet, my mind wanders into the night asking, “Is this what Christmas is truly about?” Is it a time of stressing over holiday parties, holiday gifts, and which family member is going to visit which home at what time? Is it a time of living in a fantasy world full of illusion, and sipping the champagne and egg nog until our senses grow numb? It is a time where we become intolerant of how others believe?

The answers to these questions I see in our world are inadequate. I only write about that which I see and currently understand. Each person is of course, free to believe and practice in the way that is appropriate for their life. My hope though is that each one of us will really stop and consider what this season truly means.

Christmas is a time of celebrating peace, love, and goodwill to men. It is a time of giving to others, not with hopes that you will have bought the perfect gift but that you will have given it out of pure love. It is a time of helping our fellow man, and realizing that the help should not only be on one day of the year, but each day we are fortunate to be alive and living in this world.

Christmas is much more than we make it out to be and much less than we think it truly is. The lights, trees, gifts, carols, and parties are all part of it. There is nothing wrong with these things. However, if we forget what Christmas is all about, we become a noisy gong and a clanging symbol decorated with pretty lights and glitter.

Let us remember that during this holiday time, not everyone is able to participate and many suffer in silence as a result of Christmases past. They often sit on the sidelines in suffering, hoping that the day will soon pass, when all they want to do is to forget the painful moments that this day brings. Let us reach out in love to these people, but let us remember to respect their pain and honor their true feelings.

Christmas is not about doing something because we expect anything in return. Christmas is about giving of our true heart through peace, understanding and goodwill to all that we know and meet. If we can understand this one thing about Christmas, then we will have truly celebrated the real spirit of the season.

I leave you with the lyrics to the song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Blog Post & Images (c) 12/5/10 Don Shetterly - use by permission only

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful and thoughtfilled post. I agree there are many people who hid behind the mountain of gifts they give or receive and pretend to be happy. I hope you and your special partner will have a lovely holiday season.