When it comes to Christmas, it’s easy to get lost in the mix and confuse it as a materialistic sort of holiday. If you’re a lucky kid, or even an adult in some situations, your family will be showering you with hundreds or thousands of dollars in gifts and presents. If you’re a lucky adult, you’ll have some much needed time off from work where you can finally unwind, relax, and decompress. This is often filled very quickly, however, with “holiday stress,” - the necessity to get to the crowded and stuffy stores, wait in the long, meandering lines, to get those aforementioned gifts and presents for your loved ones.
The craziness often shows itself in other ways, too - maybe the delayed start of a diet or fitness regimen, or the delayed start of an interesting class or hobby, because you have to “wait until the holidays are over.” Or perhaps several weeks worth of planning and preparation to get your house and kitchen in order to host the family dinner this year.
Yeah, the holidays can be hectic, and stressing, and expensive, and tiring.
But, one thing I think we CAN be proud of as Americans practicing a worldwide tradition with our country’s twist, is the Christmas spirit. For me at least, no matter how crazy the holidays get, they always feel magical. Christmas especially. Yeah, perhaps it’s the presents, even if it’s only a few, combined with time off work that makes it feel like a joyful time of year. Or perhaps, like I prefer to think, the community and the nation is just overtaken by a sense of spirit, combined in unison, where we all realize this time of the year as a sacred one. A time where we shouldn’t and can’t put OURSELVES first - a time where we don’t fight, or argue. A time where we give the best we can, and we love the most we can, to all around us.
Christmas as a western tradition is founded in the historical account of a very special REAL person - Saint Nicholas. He was a Christian bishop born to Greek parents who was famous for his reputation of generosity. In one such account, he heard of a devout Christian man with three daughters who didn’t have enough money to pay for their dowry’s. This meant that they would not be able to marry and would, most likely, end up as prostitutes on the street in order to support themselves. Saint Nicholas resolved to help this man, but he was too modest to flaunt his money in public and help this man so others could see. He also wanted to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity. So for three nights he threw a heavy bag of gold coins into the man’s window, wanting to remain anonymous. Enough money to pay for the dowry’s of all his daughters. On the third night, the man stayed up to witness the purse being thrown in and caught Saint Nicholas in the act - to which St. Nick responded by ordering him to keep it a secret.
It was this spirit, this generosity, this selflessness, that gave rise to the character of Santa Claus, or “old St. Nick,” as he is referred to in the western world. And I think, in our own way, we’ve also taken this inspiration from both Saint Nicholas and from Santa Claus, and have allowed ourselves to become a different kind of person, even if just small changes for a temporary time, during the Christmas season. This, to me, is what signifies the Christmas spirit. Not the ability to give others gifts of monetary value, but the spirit and the ability to THINK of others as just as important as ourselves. The desire to please our loved ones, to see a smile on their faces. This spirit permeates and meanders it’s way through the streets, on the radio with the Christmas carols, into the houses and bedrooms, and creates a truly undeniably beautiful thing that is hard to explain.
This year, let’s promise ourselves to try and take it to the next level. Embody the Christmas spirit even more, and let’s challenge ourselves to hold onto it for longer than just this one magical time of the year.