When I was little, I had a gigantic love affair with the holidays. It was such a special time; everything felt magical for a few weeks out of the year. It mattered not at all that my family was Jewish by ancestry – my mother, for whatever reason, went full on Martha Stewart at Christmas. I’m not sure where that came from; but I suppose it is hard to escape the juggernaut regardless of your religion. Mom was more of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. And not only did she join them, she’d decorate, bake and gift wrap circles around them. If wrapping presents was an Olympic event, my mother would have had multiple gold medals.
So, while growing up, the holidays were straight out of a Lifetime movie for my family. We always had an enormous tree, usually decorated with a particular theme and white lights; none of that multi-colored blinking nonsense (apologies to those who prefer the latter). There were parties and cookies and a mountain of presents for my brother and me (yes, I grew up as a greedy little consumer).
Over time, I’ve done many things to try and recreate even a small piece of the holiday joy I had as a child. Truthfully, it hasn’t worked particularly well. The term best used to describe my emotions around the holidays now is wistful. I want so badly to connect to the feelings I experienced growing up. I anticipate with both eagerness and apprehension the cycle from late November through the end of the year.
For many years, despite being single and not having children, I would lug a six foot tree up to whatever apartment I lived in and decorate it just as my mom would have. I threw parties and wrapped gifts – I did inherit the gift wrapping gene, after all. But as the years passed, little by little that has all fallen away. One year, I didn’t get a tree; I haven’t ever again since then (well, it’s not particularly environmentally friendly anyway). Then, I ran out of energy to host parties. And suddenly, the holidays were really no different than any other time of year.
I know all, or certainly most, “grown-ups” tend to shed the child-like wonder of the holidays, but isn’t that a shame? Despite the rampant consumerism, the crowds and the over-scheduling, it can and should be a time where we take a break from our every day and pause. Regardless of what you celebrate – or even if you don’t celebrate at all – the world becomes just a little quieter right about now. Together, we all acknowledge another year’s passing. It’s an opportunity to be particularly reflective and especially grateful. And, for me, there’s something beautiful about having a designated time to create or experience magic. It’s like taking a normal day and bedazzling it. And who couldn’t use some extra sparkle?
Yes, we can’t deny that there’s a lot wrong on our planet. As we reflect on that, it can seem that the world is very much missing in dazzle of any kind. The only way we can continue to effect change, though, is to recharge our own batteries on occasion. One way we can do that is to set aside time to celebrate what’s good in our lives, to feel grateful for what we have and to cultivate some joy. For me, that means continuing my efforts to recapture, even if just for a moment, the sense of wonder and excitement I had as a child at this time of year. Because no matter what – religion, geography, or the hardships we face – we are all deserving of the holiday spirit.