Getting Into the Spirit

It’s that time of year again, fa la la la la and all that good stuff. The holiday season is supposed to be a time of food, fun, and family, but it can also be too easy to cast a cynical eye upon the whole affair.

For one, while it is supposed to be one of the most joyous times of the year, for many, it is also the most depressing. Not everyone has loved ones with whom they can share the holidays. Not everyone will be able to buy presents for their children, or even be able to enjoy a decent meal. For others who may not be in dire financial circumstances, the holidays can still be hard for people dealing with personal tragedies, mental illness, or just plain feeling lonely.

As well, on a more practical note, there are those of us who just can’t stand being bombarded by tacky decorative displays and horrible music in public places for the month leading up to Christmas. I am singling out Christmas because, despite our multicultural and pluralistic society, it is still the one holiday that gets the most attention in December. I am not one of those anti-Christmas people, but other holidays should also get airtime. I’d love to see a menorah on display in a shopping center, or “The Dreidel Song” played at full blast.

Unfortunately, this season has also become far too much about corporate consumerism than actually celebrating anything of spiritual value. Wouldn’t it be cool if people made their own gifts, or at the very least made an effort to shop for locally produced crafts and other gift items? Head to your local Farmer’s Market for unique gift ideas and possibly some healthier holiday food choices.

It is also possible to explore the “reason for the season” without going all religious or holier than thou. Celebrating life, miracles, and acting upon values of kindness, generosity, and gratitude are universal enough to be shared between cultures and faiths. Get together with people for whom the holidays actually mean something spiritually and celebrate with them. Explore your own cultural and faith traditions – there are many liberal denominations of most religious groups – or, explore something completely different. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • A festive meal prepared vegetarian style.
  • Attending a service of a faith other than yours.
  • Volunteering to serve a meal at a shelter.
  • Inviting friends or acquaintances to your home who don’t have anyone else with whom to celebrate.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!
Paula E. Kirman is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer . . . and is Jewish. But she’s not a Scrooge.