Every year it happens. The stores fill with decorations and lights, the streets become tangled in brilliant colours and dancing elves, as thousands upon thousands of people scurry through the streets in a frenzy to find that perfect gift for that special someone. But have you ever stopped to wonder what all of this really means? What it’s for and why it’s there?
It’s easy to get pulled into tradition. It’s fueled by religion and honoured by every retail shop in the world. When the two united is a complete mystery that has puzzled philosophers for years, it’s as unpredictable as the sky and stars above. We don’t know what’s out there, but we do have a thousand theories to test.
Am I making any sense? I desperately hope not. It’s Christmas or Hanukah, or maybe just a week off from school or work. It’s not supposed to make sense, but if that’s what you’re looking for, don’t go away. You might just find something valuable that you didn’t know you were looking for.
I’m talking about my Christmas. It’s what I see, and it’s what I celebrate every year, on the twenty-fifth of December. I love religion. It fascinates me. But that’s not my Christmas. And presents are wonderful. They’re mysterious and beautiful, smell wonderful and feel like fine silk beneath my fingertips. That’s my Christmas. That’s what it’s all about!
No. Not the gifts. It’s the mystery. Christmas is filled with mystery and magic, both good and bad. It brings families together and tears others apart. What it is has nothing to do with tradition, and I don’t think it ever was. It’s about taking a moment to break from your world, to catch your breath while remembering and forgetting at the exact same time.
The world’s a busy place. It moves faster than any of us can manage on our own. We all live with goals and deadlines and ambitions and stress and dreams, and somewhere along the way we forget what it is we’re searching for. What it is that we hope and desire and sometimes even pray for. We all want something, and we convince ourselves that we need it, that we don’t already have it.
We tell ourselves that we’re doing it for our family and our future and our wellbeing. But what about now? What will you have in five, ten, or fifty years from now that you don’t have today? A car? A house? A bad liver…
My Christmas is tradition. Its foundation is firmly planted in religion’s roots, and the fresh-cut pine tree is always decorated so heavily with ornaments and tinsel that you can’t even see the green anymore. We share presents and stories amongst the chaos of sugar-powered children and flickering lights. And we both hate and love it at the same time. Do you know why?
Because we’re reminded of what it is that we’re working so hard for. We’re not off thinking about the future, setting goals, or struggling to meet some crazy deadline. We’re not worried about our health, our financial situation, or when we’ll be able to just sit back and relax. We’re doing it now. We’re living right then and there. We don’t care that tomorrow we’re back at work. We’re not concerned about the bills that are due, or our RRSPs CPPs or RSTs. In fact, I don’t even know two-thirds of those mean.
I can see my nephews and nieces. I can relax, read a book, watch a movie, or even go on a walk. I have a magazine that needs to be put together and published in the next seven days. I have a chapter of my latest story that I just have to finish before Wednesday. Exams are around the corner, and I really should be studying. Best of all, I don’t even know if next semester will be paid for yet.
Does it matter? What if the magazine was a day late, or I didn’t complete that chapter in time? Well that’s simple. The magazine will be a day late, and that chapter I’m writing turned out a tiny bit better. But what about those exams, that studying, or the payment due for my education? Well pooh. That’s okay. When I study, I usually overthink and do terribly when tested, and I’m not in school to impress anyone else, so what’s it matter if I don’t get that 100% I was aiming for?
Of course, the money for school’s a biggy, right? I mean, if I don’t get the money in on time, fill out the right forms by the right date, and cross all my ‘t’s and dot all of my ‘i’s then I’m… I’m… just going to have to… take the semester off, save some money, and go right back at it next September.
That’s Christmas. It’s taking the time to realize that it’s not the end of the world. That all of that stress you’ve been carrying on your shoulders isn’t a permanent weight, and therefore can be dismounted anytime you need to stop and catch your breath. It’s saying, don’t give up on your dreams, but make sure to take some time to dream them up. Enjoy what you have now. Appreciate who you have today. And allow yourself some time to breathe.
The world may be spinning round and round at close to 1000 miles per hour at any given time, and it may be doing laps around the Sun at 66 000 miles per hour all day every day, but that doesn’t mean you have to try and keep up with it.