Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Telling Life: Finding the holiday spirit

I know people who love this time of year. The day after Thanksgiving, or maybe even before, they are decorating, planning, wearing brightly colored sweaters and more. Whether Christmas is a religious or secular event, they are thrilled that it's the holiday season.

I am not one of these people. Please don't think I'm a Scrooge, bah-humbugging everyone's fun, but Christmas isn't that big a deal to me. When I was a child I loved Santa, the tree, and the gifts. As I grew older I loved (and still love) finding gifts for those I cherish, but I became more aware of the complexities of Christmas. For one I'm not Christian, so the season sometimes feels a bit oppressive. For another it was often a time of family stress. Christmas began to be associated with careful navigation through hazardous waters and an increasing frustration with commercialism.

As an adult I finally found some Christmas spirit through rituals Kevin and I developed. We hosted a big open house every year. I loved and still love filling the kids' (now adults) stockings. I enjoyed the ritual of finding and cutting down a tree. None of it really felt like mine, but it was a fun thing to be a part of and a great opportunity to show people that I love them.

Then Kevin got sick. By this time in 2013 we knew something was seriously wrong but we didn't know how bad it was. Christmas now hold memories of the last weeks we had together before his diagnosis. Since his death, my stepkids and I have developed some wonderful new rituals, but it still feels a little strange for all that it is also loving and warm.

I know just how lucky I am because I know what I have lost. Christmas is now a mixture of love and sorrow.

So how do I navigate this time of year? How do I find holiday spirit so I at least won't be a drag for those who love Christmas beyond all else? This year I'm looking for the stories. I'm reminding myself of all the good times, all of the love and light and laughter. This is, of course, what we do at the holidays. We tell each other stories, the same ones we've been telling for years. They are part of the holiday ritual now.

My holiday stories are about spilled wine, unsteady menorahs, finding the right tree, baking bread, playlists, welcomed strangers, losing electricity, merged traditions, teaching the kids to gamble by playing dreidl, sledding miracles and more. For you the stories may be about a child being born, shelter from the cold, family and friends and sweaters that just didn't fit. I don't know yours and you don't know mine, but I do know these stories are lights in the darkness. They are stories of hope and love and faith in something when the world is cold and unwelcoming.

Keep telling your stories. Keep listening. They are our guideposts to find a deeper kind of holiday spirit than anything you can buy in a store.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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