She Says: What Have I Been Doing?
I can remember Christmas as a child and young adult very well. Even more than the presents, or the cookies, or the holiday movies, I loved sitting in our family room at night with just the lights of the tree glowing across the room. Somewhere along the way, the tradition of sitting next to the tree taking in the holiday season slipped off my list of things to do. Suddenly, work, cleaning the house, or prepping for travel started taking priority. I now realize I’ve spent the last six years just trying to get through the season and make the most of the time I had off work doing un-holiday things. Then Christmas would pass and I would complain “where did the year go?” without a second thought.
As Christmas quickly approaches, and we spend the majority of the season in Salt Lake going through the motions of setting our own tree trimming and gift traditions, it has been more evident than ever that the holidays have been too long ignored. Christmas is now my excuse to spend money on meals out, a reason to get out of Salt Lake, and the time I look forward to because there is no work. Instead of not believing in Santa, as so many adults are accused of as they get older, I have forgotten to believe in the general spirit of the season. I have become a closet Grinch.
After I write this, however, I reflect on my behavior toward Christmas throughout my twenties and know that though they were always spent around family and with love, they were still spent with a deflated mindset. And it’s disappointing.
So from here on out, I’m taking bits of examples from others who truly know how to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I know I can take an extra couple days to get home earlier for the holidays. I’m going to cook more around the holidays so we can eat at home together. I’m going to purchase gifts with thoughtful intentions, not just to get shopping done before the mall craze starts. I’m going to sit in front of our tree and take in the season. And last year will have been the final Christmas that I wonder where the year went …
I love this season. It is fantastic. It is not my favorite time of year weather-wise. It is certainly not my favorite time of year work-wise. But the season, as it were, there is nothing better than this season. It is peaceful and blithe, reflective and carefree, reverent and cheeky. The thing that I love the most is that the season is contagious. Nearly everyone you meet is excited and joyful. A few weekends ago traffic was at a standstill in downtown Salt Lake City. This is quite unusual for the area, so I asked a passerby what was going on that night. He looked at me with a slightly confused smile and announced, “It’s Christmas!” and then bounded off. I felt as if Jimmy Stewart himself had just offered me a Christmas message. That’s why this season is so great. Everyone gets in the spirit.
Last weekend I was looking for a parking space downtown. When I found one and walked up to pay the meter, I noticed it was wrapped like a Christmas gift, complete with a bow. On top of the wrapping paper read, “Merry Christmas Salt Lake.” A small gesture to spread Christmas cheer. I smiled and went on my merry way to the Santa Pub Crawl. What’s that you ask? Well, exactly what it sounds like. Hundreds of people dressed up like Santa hop from bar to bar. What other time would you see that other than this time of year? Hundreds of Santas all friendly and jolly. And you can be sure we saw plenty of Ho Ho Hos. I mean heard. Sorry.
Christmas traditionalists will argue that most of this joy is not as it was originally intended. They will bemoan the fact that Christmas has been secularized and the intention behind this argument is not lost on me. Just look at the amount of stress that goes into purchasing gifts, especially at a time when, for most, money is tight. (As an aside, my family draws names and everyone writes down exactly what they want in a list and then we give each other exactly what they wrote and everyone has a great Christmas. It’s so thoughtful). Irony aside, those who argue that Christmas has lost its meaning also argue that the joyous spirit that surrounds the season is misguided these days. And that’s the thing, how can joy ever be wrong? If it is truly joy, what does it even mean that it is secular? In my book, a joyful heart is just that, a joyful heart.
Cicero once said, “An unjust peace is better than a just war.” (I know, Cicero? I’m a dork. Four years of Latin, what can I say). I believe there’s truth in this and that it holds for most every virtue. Maybe joy because of Santa is better than anger because of religion. If there is true joy, then maybe it holds the spirit of Christmas as originally intended after all. And joy is infectious. That’s why I’ll take this season over any other. It’s the season of loved ones. It’s the season of just one more cookie. It’s the season of giving. It’s the season of inebriation with ones we love or Santa look-a-likes we don’t even know. It’s the season of pay it forward. It’s the season of hugs. It’s the season when we all take a second to think about the things we have and consider the things we don’t. So the next time someone stops and asks you what all the hubbub is about, simply tell them, “It’s Christmas!”