Tuesday, December 23, 2008

T'is the Season to be Jolly - or is It

Melancholy and sadness can be around us during the holiday season. This season in particular has a way of bubbling to the surface and amplifying emotions. Particularly those emotions like loneliness, sadness and helplessness. If you are alone, you feel more lonely. If you are poor, you feel everything is beyond your price. If you are elderly, sick and alone you feel more isolated. If you loss someone during the year, the holidays without them can be unbearable.

At this time of the year my mind goes to these unfortunate people in our society. I sometimes feel guilty (Catholic influence) that I am blessed with a good life. Those who are away from family, the homeless, those in ill health, the alcohol and drug dependent, and the incarcerated are the most vulnerable at this time of the year. No doubt they may be feeling vulnerable now more than any other time of the year. They are someone's children, brother, sister , or parent. Perhaps if the season was not so commercialized, then maybe they would not feel as abandoned by their family or society. But everywhere you look you are reminded that its the season to be jolly, and everyone is shopping even if they can't afford it. The commercialization of the holidays increases stress on everyone.

This year embrace the spirit of giving and receiving gifts by being more mindful and thoughtful during this season. Approaching the season in the spirit of giving rather than as an obligation, or expecting gifts in return.

My most precious childhood memory of Christmas in Fort Chipewyan was when my siblings came home for the holidays. Our house although quite small could always accommodate another person. People would talk about their year, which always sounded so exciting to be off living and working away from home. Laughter, crying, and music filled the living room. Listening to 630 CHED count down the top hits of the year was a tradition in our home.  There was lots of hugs, teasing, and general merriment burst through the house. Christmas at home included many family members around and the chaos that ensues with that many people in being in close quarters. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

It really is not about the gifts for me, it is about spending time with family. Although we were poor, we always received a gift, sometimes I don't know how my mom did it.  I recall a special gift one year from one of my brothers, it was a Jungle Book album. I was thrilled that he remembered I liked the movie.

Christmas to me is about being with family, enjoying visitors, and, well the food. Freshly baked goods, roastings, and candy filled the house. Nothing was more important than the Christmas dinner with all of its trimmings, thanks in large part to my sister Dora. The cakes, cookies, and chocolates, yummmmmy! Walking to church for midnight mass was always exciting, the reflection of the moon light on the snow made it  sparkle like tiny diamonds creating a magical feeling.  I treasure these memories in Doghead.

Childhood Christmas memories are magical and precious. However, I think sometimes it is those memories which we measure our current situation. If it does not measure up, it leads to unhappiness and disenchantment during the holidays. Particularly for those who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. Therefore, if it is all about the gifts for you, take a moment and imagine not having family and being alone during Christmas. Perhaps this reflection will open your heart. Now more than anytime of the year, if you see a homeless person on your way to shop for gifts, don't ignore them. Offer them coffee or spare change with love and kindness.

Meanwhile, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit some family members before Christmas, and to have talked with my mama who is so happy to be in her new home. I am grateful to have my health, a wonderful family, and friends who year round surprise me with acts of kindness and Love. And to those family members with whom I will not be with this Christmas, I am thinking of you with a special gratitude in my heart.


Merry Christmas!

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