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Spirituality Essay:

The Holiday Season    ( December 2007 )

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Lavish Christmas tree

Do you approach the upcoming holidays with a bag of mixed feelings? It's the traditional time of year for special joys, family connections, festivities, peace on earth, goodwill to men ...

But also, for many, it's a particularly difficult time of year. Some, especially those alone, can feel particularly left out. And everyone is subject to feelings of disconnect, gift pressures, anxiety, and failure and depression, as hopes and expectations for holiday bliss - generic in our culture - fail to materialize.

I personally think Christmas is an especially loaded holiday. When we were young, all sorts of goodies just "happened": costly presents fell into our lives; and family warmth (real or feigned) and holiday festivities etched deep pleasure memories into our minds.

As adults, we likely have memories of one or two very special Christmases, probably when we were most in love, or with young families ... when everything came together and special connections etched holiday "wonderfulness" more deeply into our minds.

Creating positive holidays each year can be tricky, as our minds can't help but compare current realities with those sugar memories from the past. There was a time in my life when I totally disowned Christmas - as the only way I could manage to keep the pain of unfulfillable hopes and expectations away. Those barren Decembers eventually produced a philosophy of "expecting nothing" as I cynically avoided anything that had to do with Christmas. Overkill ... but at the time necessary. And it worked ... for (in a down-so-low-it-can-only-get- better twist) other, different, and totally unexpected pleasures began seeping in.

It's all in the expectations. Keeping ourselves in the "here and now" and not our memory's "what should be" changes everything.

Who knows what goodies can then appear ... For me, Solstice quietude, Christmas lights, children's excitement, eggnog traditions with neighbors, Ft Bragg's Lighted Truck Parade, meaningful giving to the less fortunate, and other new activities have started filling in that void and making Christmas something to look forward to again.

Want more? ... consider expecting less.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
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