It was calm and dark outside, and the windows were covered with a layer of powdery snow. I could barely see outside from my bedroom window, and every time I tried, my breath fogged up the glass. Was Santa on his way?
I had just gotten back from my aunt and uncle’s house, and I was full of ham, green beans, and Christmas cheer (the real stuff…nothing alcoholic). When I walked inside my house, I was, as usual, hypnotized by the orange electric flickering candles mom always put in the windows. But that was over, and it was time to get ready for bed. My brother and I set up our plastic “Masters of the Universe” tent, and as Christmas music played quietly in the background, we got inside our sleeping bags. I think we slept for a grand total of five minutes that night. Soon, the alarm would go off, and we would slowly tip-toe downstairs to open presents. The light from the Christmas tree always created an eerie and serene glow in the living room at 4:30 AM, which is when we woke everybody up. Soon the idyllic Christmas scene turned into an all-out chaotic party as wrapping paper flew through the air. Ahh…Christmas!
As a child I loved Christmas. I still do. However, Christmas has taken on less meaning me for me in recent years, not because it is any less special, but because I try to make every day just as special. There are certain traits we allow ourselves to have at Christmas. We also allow ourselves to do certain things that we don’t the rest of the year.
People are very generous at Christmas. Everybody digs a little deeper to help make sure others have the things that they need. This can be as simple as putting change in the Salvation Army kettle, or making a gift for your parents, sibling, or friends. We also tend to throw our money around a little more, tipping and otherwise rewarding people for their efforts. Yet, who says we only be generous at Christmas?
People go hungry the rest of the year. Servers work extra hard all year round, and your friends and relatives could use a little joy in March too. If you are generous every day of the year, you will find that the joy of Christmas giving can magically transform yourself (and others).
View People in the Best Light – Always
Christmas movies portray this concept well. At Christmas time, your teacher, that less-fortunate kid at school, and the relatives that drive you crazy, all seem a little more human at Christmas. If Scrooge can come across as human at Christmas, then anybody can. For most of the year, we objectify and judge people, assuming the worst about them, but at Christmas, we see others as we would like to be seen – as human beings.
Now, imagine what life would be like if we gave others the benefit of the doubt 365 days of the year, instead of just one? There is a reason Christmas movies make us feel good: because it touches deep human desire to be understood and understand. Maybe that teacher you think is a jerk is close to being let go and isn’t sure how he will feed his family. Maybe your mom drives you crazy, but she will be there for you even when you catch your boyfriend making out with another girl.
See Friends and Family – A Lot
When I was growing up, we lived about a mile from my aunt and uncle. I loved visiting them. Unfortunately, we only saw them on Christmas Eve. Yep, they were within running distance (in fact, I ran by their house the other day), and we only saw them one day a year around the holidays. The same is true of friends. We “make time” at Christmas, when the rest of the year we are too busy.
Even as a child I questioned the craziness of such behavior. People we liked and wanted to see (and they liked us and wanted to see us!) lived a mile away. How hard was it to take a break from our daily lives to drive a mile and say “hello?” Also, instead of being bombarded with parties in December, why not have some parties other times of the year?
Realize Time Off is a Great Idea
Unfortunately, our present worries can overcome us. Yeah, there is a test coming up in Trig. Yeah, there is a big basketball game tomorrow night. Yeah, you really really need to get into that private college you applied to.
But, the truth is that most things will wait. “Growing up” doesn’t change things either. Most adults worry about dumb things too. They work over every night of the week to finish reports that nobody really cares about.
Christmas teaches us that a break is a good thing. We need breaks to mentally and physically refresh. At Christmas, virtually the whole Western world stops, and guess what…the world doesn’t fall apart. Schools are closed. The stock market takes a breather. Businesses shut down. People relax and reflect on the things that really matter. Not only does the world keep turning, but its inhabitants are healthier for having rested. Who says we should only take a break from our stress once a year? Why can’t we schedule some time for relaxation and refreshment, an “anxiety free” period, the rest of the year?
The lessons from Christmas are many. The good news is that there is nothing stopping us from taking these Christmas feelings and actions and applying them year round. The bad news is that for most people, stressful and unhelpful feelings and actions will dominate 364 days a year, until that one time a year when they let themselves be decent.