Finding Meaning in the Holidays and Christmas

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
December 19, 2003

The holidays are a time of year, almost a rite of passage one might say, that you either love or dread. There's little inbetween. Most folks look forward to the holidays and Christmas on some level, perhaps believing they can or will rekindle that childhood feeling of innocence and wonder that usually accompanies this time of the year. Most folks, however, don't usually feel the same kind of anticipation toward the familial obligations the holidays often bring. Few folks look at the time as an opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of the holidays, and why they are meant to be important and special.

The Meaning Revealed

The holidays aren't about presents or Santa Claus. They aren't meant only for children (as some believe), but rather all of us. They aren't about seeing the family and having to sit through the stress of another family dinner. They aren't just for Christians or Jews or African-Americans or people who believe in something. They aren't about gorging ourselves on sweets and food. They aren't about watching football or parades or singing carols in a cold winter's night. They aren't about decorating Christmas trees or stringing up thousands of lights on the outside of one's house.

The holidays and Christmas are a time to take a good look around you. They are about finding something spiritual and wonderful about yourself, your life, and the people who fill it and make it special. Not to just give thanks or show appreciation through some materialistic and commercial sense, but to understand that you have a lot. Despite everything, you are alive, relatively well, and have a life filled with people that love you. Yes, you may not realize it or even believe it to be true, but it is nonetheless. You may feel unloveable, unloved, unhappy, stressed out. But those are the simple untruths we tell ourselves everyday. The frequency of the telling doesn't make them come true.

Finding Oneself at This Time

No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, the holidays for most people involve some understanding that we should be celebrating something very special. In celebrating, though, we often lose sight of the things that are truly important in our lives. We get tangled up in the specifics and forget the general point. It's like a person who spends a year getting ready to throw a big party for themselves to enjoy.... But then the party comes and they spend so much time fretting the details, they forgot to enjoy themselves. What was the point? What is the point of a holiday you don't give yourself time to enjoy? What is the point of obligations if you feel obligated to do them??

Ahh, you say, well, that's what makes them obligations in the first place. But really, are they? Who puts obligations on to us? Our parents? No, we're grown adults now. We don't have to do what they say or ask of us. We have free will, and if we don't want to go to a family gathering, we can simply choose not to. It doesn't make us bad people, nor does it mean we don't love our family. It means, simply, that sometimes we need to find our own way to celebrate that feels genuine and real to us. And that means throwing obligations out the door sometimes. Obligation is just another word for a choice where we don't feel like we have much of a choice. The lie most people believe about obligations is that the choice doesn't exist. But the truth is simple -- you do have a choice.

What Do You Value?

Wrested free of obligations, perhaps now is the time to take a good hard look at your life and what you value. Your friends, your loved ones, your family? The car, the home, the boat, the stereo, the television, your CD or DVD collection?? Having employment, curbside trash service, running water, a roof, sufficient food and heat? Fast food, Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, and your local deli? Hot soup on a cold day, snow in the winter, sun in the summer? The breath that you're taking right now, even as you read these words with two perfectly good eyes, moving a mouse with a prefectly good hand connected to a working arm?? The ability not only to receive love given to you, but to give it as well?... With a heart that grows not based upon the size of one's wallet or the knowledge we gain, but with simple openness and age?

Honestly now, do you value more the lies you tell yourself everyday or the truth that you are afraid to admit? The familiar lies such as "I'm not good enough," "Nobody loves me," "I'm fat and ugly," "I'm stupid," "I'll never feel better"? Why do you value these lies so much?? Maybe because you've been telling them to yourself for so long, you're starting to believe them. But lies hold no value -- you give them meaning and substance by continuing to believe them. The minute you choose to let go of them, they will lose their substance and the truth of you will be revealed -- that you are beautiful, loved, and special in this world.

Wrested free of the trappings of the holidays as experienced by most, you become free, genuine, and unique. You remember what it means to be alive in this world, to experience life -- the joys, the pain, the achievements, the losses. Everything. It is there for you. Today. Tomorrow, maybe. But today, definitely. Go out and enjoy it, enjoy yourself (maybe for a change). Enjoy the life you've made and the future life that is open to endless possibilities, limited only by your own imagination.

I have no magical answers, no words of wisdom or insight into how you can get to a point in your life where you can feel again, feel true to yourself, feel happiness at the life that you've chosen. Except this -- that life is a choice we make every single day that we're alive. How we react and interact with others, the types of relationships we choose to have with our families and friends, the choices of careers, education, and loved ones. These are all conscious choices we make. What we value or don't value. Choosing to pursue even more materialism in an already materialistic world. It's your choice.

The world of you is open to your own exploration. This holiday season, while celebrating the special joys of the world, take a moment to celebrate the special joys of you. Because the real secret of the holidays and Christmas is that the love and joy of the season is about the love and joy we can choose to share with one another. You and the love you have to give are what make this world special.

Peace to you.

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2007
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

The time when you need to do something is when no one else is willing to do it, when people are saying it can't be done.
-- Mary Frances Berry