Friday, December 24, 2010

Zen and the Art of Celebrating Christmas

Christmas was a magical time for me when I was a boy. Everything seemed so much more serene back then. We had time off school, time to spend with family and friends. There were times when we'd go out and play in the snow, build a snowman, have snowball fights, maybe do some sledding, but I seem to recall much of the time spent finding indoor activities to keep us busy. We'd laze around and watch TV or play board games and enjoy holiday treats. Much of the time, as I recall, we'd be happy simply basking in each other's company. Those were the things that made such a dark and dreary time of year seem magical.

I have fond memories of the lights. Bringing a tree into the house and decking it out with colored lights and shiny ornaments just brings awe to the eyes of a child. I also remember driving around the neighborhoods and checking out the gaudy decorations on the houses. It was a delight to behold the extent to which some people would go to make their house and yard the brightest, most decorated in the neighborhood. Such things bring so much joy to the heart of a child.

I didn't realize, until I had kids of my own, just how hectic Christmas must have been for my parents, especially with eight kids. I can only imagine all the running around they had to do, the last minute planning, the shopping, buying and setting up the tree, the gift wrapping, the cooking, all the preparations for the visiting relatives, and all while trying to maintain an air of calmness. I suppose it was just the fog of childhood that kept me from noticing the rush.

When my kids were younger, I tried to help make their Christmas's special. I did my best to make everyone's Christmas's special. I spent what I could. I ran around and shopped. I bought real Christmas trees. I helped decorate. In short, I participated as much as I could in the frantic activities surrounding Christmas. Everything was hectic right up until late Christmas Eve, then it was Christmas, the gifts were opened, the feasts devoured, and then it was over. Another year had come and gone and it was only after all was said and done that I could relax.

Now my kids have grown. I live on my own. I have no money to spare and can't afford the commercialization that has become Christmas. I can only offer my love, friendship and companionship to those who are interested. I don't have to worry about all the trappings that is Christmas. There is a certain joy to this position also. I can relax once again. I can just let the season come and go. I can enjoy the quiet and solitude that is the winter season.

Christmas is still magical. It is a wonderful time of year to commune with nature. It's a wonderful time to mediate and reflect on what's really important in your life. Try to find time to relax in the midst of all the shopping, partying and running around. If you are so inclined, take the time to meditate and find your center. Open up to the lights of the season and let them flow through your spirit. Try not to worry so much about getting everything done and find some time for yourself. Try not to worry so much about those last minute details if you can help it. Everything will be just fine. Chances are the people around you will be happy just for the gift of your company. After all, it's the people we surround ourselves with who should be the real treasures, not the material things we can wrap in paper. Those are just tokens of our love for each other. The genuine article can't be bought or wrapped and is much better for the soul.

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