By the time you are reading this column, we are just hours away from Christmas 2018. As I’m writing it, I have just finished watching a Hallmark movie about finding our Christmas spirit. Since it’s Hallmark, you can guess that the heroine does indeed find both her holiday spirit and her true love by the end of the film.
It’s not always that easy in real life. I searched on the internet for “Christmas spirit” and a host of articles popped up immediately. Apparently, it’s not unusual that folks find themselves in an internal conflict during the busy days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At a time when we celebrate giving, compassion, generosity, and love of fellow man, we are also struggling with shopping, decorating, gift-finding, wrapping, and budget keeping. It’s no wonder people often complain a bit about the “season,” and then feel guilty for doing so.
One of the articles I read talked about making a “to-do” list for the season and putting a special note on the very top of it to adopt a new perspective. The perspective of the Christmas spirit is one of a giving heart. The article even suggested ways to show generosity of spirit that has nothing to do with the debit card or check book. It recommended looking for ways to show a loving heart that helps others through simpler, but more meaningful, gifts. Ideas included listening to someone with a problem; forgiving someone who has hurt you; visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home; and inviting someone to share a meal.
These are great ideas! I next searched for “random acts of kindness” and found dozens of lists of ideas that cost little to nothing. What a wonderful way to nurture Christmas spirit — doing things to give comfort, joy, peace, or love to others.
An article in Scientific American had an anthropological view on why North Americans strive so to embody the Christmas spirit. According to the author, it may be tied to Christmas occurring near the end of the year. During this time, our ancestors would have enjoyed the period following the harvest. They would have had time to visit with others and enjoying having guests in their homes. Also, it’s the darkest time of the year for us, so a time when humans naturally gravitate to others for comfort and warmth.
The Christmas spirit, so eloquently described in classic literature such as “A Christmas Carol” and “The Gift of the Magi,” includes a moral core, good cheer, gift-giving, and symbols of home and safety. These kinds of tales provide us with a guide for behavior that exhibits the spirit.
Our words and behavior are how we express the spirit. Over and above our grousing about the weather, the crowds, and the trappings of the season, it’s the best inside us that we show to others: the extra dollar in the offering plate, the second reading of a story at bedtime, the invitation to Christmas dinner, the visit to the elderly shut-in. That’s the Christmas spirit — all year long.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.