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Reason for the Season


It is one week until Christmas as I write this; the holiday season is in full swing, albeit in a more restrained manner than is usual. Driving around town, there are fewer homes with extravagant Christmas light displays than ever and retailers are glum over numbers that reflect the economic impact of the current crisis on the average consumer.

Still, I think most of us can agree that Christmas is not about displays and purchases. My wife and I are big lovers of the Christmas season and despite global warming bringing temperatures in the ‘80s (you Canadian and European readers, g’head and convert that into Celsius; I’ll wait) we still feel an inner warmth that comes from what the season represents.

One quick word; I do have a beef with the whole change from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.” I don’t have anything against non-Christians nor do I wish to be exclusionary, but if someone were to wish me a Happy Rosh Hashanah or a Happy Ramadan, I wouldn’t be offended. Wishing somebody a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it isn’t like shooting them in the head; you just say “thank you but I don’t celebrate that holiday” and move on. Why get bent out of shape over a sincere wish for happiness just because you don’t celebrate the same way? If that kind of thing sincerely offends you, perhaps your skin needs thickening.

Okay, I mention that not just to get a pet peeve of mine off my chest (political correctness in general irritates me) but as kind of a segue into a new holiday tradition that I’ve just made up. Feel free to adopt it if you wish.

I’m not big on Christmas Cards. I used to dutifully sign and send them to my friends but I enjoyed displaying them on the mantle of my apartment (or seeing them on our piano when I lived with my mom and dad) but they also seemed to be kind of empty and moreover in these days where most communication is done electronically, somewhat outdated. I especially hated those generic newsletters that trumpeted what a superior life the senders had and generally ignored any issues or tragedies that befell. They rang of insincerity to me and felt insanely patronizing. Perhaps my skin needs thickening as well.

Still, I’ve always thought that this is a time that is inappropriate for general platitudes and generic greetings. This is a time for coming together and expressing the feelings deepest in the heart. Therefore, instead of sending Christmas cards wishing the best of the holiday season, I will be sending individual letters to my friends telling them how much they mean to me. Those of you who interact with me regularly will be getting one in the next week or so; I’ll be a busy little beaver writing them starting on the day this is published. I hope to have them sent to everyone by Christmas Eve; if you don’t get one, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think less of you but just that I ran out of time.

And in the spirit of inclusion, I’ll be sending these to my friends of different faiths and those of no religion at all as well. It isn’t about expressing one’s religious beliefs as far as I’m concerned; Christmas is bigger than the “Reason for the Season” that rabid Christians espouse this time of year and usually winds up turning me off. Yes, I get that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and it is perhaps the holiest day on the Christian calendar; however, I believe that because nearly every organized religion has some sort of celebration at the same time of the year that the season itself is universally sacred, whether you believe in Christ or not. Therefore, I intend to celebrate it universally and, I believe, correctly – celebrating the love that binds us all and has the potential to make us all better.

This isn’t meant to be a rant against those who celebrate Christmas to reflect their religious beliefs and faith – far be it for me to tell anyone how to celebrate. I’m just saying that I have grown to believe that the best way to honor Christ and his message is to practice it by sending love and compassion to as many people as I possibly can without the expectation of anything in return or without preaching or proselytizing in any way.

So grab yourself some eggnog and find yourself some mistletoe. Bathe yourself in the warmth of good feeling and fellowship with your fellow man. Reach out to everyone around you and take the hand of those who reach out to you. Take the inertia of that love and use it to fuel your lives all year round. 2009, as a rule, sucked. 2010 can be better if we choose to make it that way. Why not start now – think of someone you care about and tell them so. It doesn’t have to be written in flowery words and brilliant analogies, maybe it doesn’t have to be written at all – a hug can communicate a great deal without the use of a single word. Expressing that love for friend and family alike is more valuable than anything you can buy at Amazon, Best Buy or Wal-Mart. It may not be the Reason for the Season for some but it certainly is for me. Maybe it should be for everyone.

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