Thursday, November 3, 2011
Be Very Afraid
Uh-oh. The holiday season is right around the corner, or if you think the way retailers wish you would, it began on Halloween.
The holiday season is an intense time of SHOULDS, many of which clash with each other. We should feast and toast the season and each other, but we shouldn't gain weight. We should feast but not feast, in other words. It's so confusing. We should be jovial and celebrative, but we're supposed to also be productive at work which means we can't really let go and have fun, yes? We should be happy to see our families, but we have to fight our way through overcrowded airports, deal with delayed flights, or endure long miserable drives through inclement weather. We shouldn't get so stressed out, but due to the heinousness of travel at this time of year, we pick fights with those we love best when we SHOULD be relaxed and happy.
Those of us who are single and did not have children are called "orphans" or "strays" when we're invited to holiday gatherings. I know I SHOULDN'T be insulted by the well meaning people who want to make sure I'm not alone, but ... well ... I do find it insulting. Of course that's my problem.
The gatherings, feasting, toasting and celebration made sense once upon a time when these activities were part of a seasonal ritual. Work and other everyday activities were put aside in order to welcome the winter solstice, feasting was important since no one was exactly sure whether or not the food stored after harvest would last through the winter. The noise of gatherings and the lighting of many fires and candles was a ritual act that generated heat and light, much needed before electricity during the season of long, cold nights. It all made sense then.
Now, it's harder to connect with the reasons we celebrate the holidays. In the cities, it's never dark. If you're cold, simply crank up the thermostat. Hunger can be satisfied quickly and easily. Is it any wonder it's so hard to connect gracefully with the pressure around celebrating? What's the point? Why make and celebrate feasts without gaining an ounce when we aren't hungry, why must we buy and give gifts without going broke when we aren't afraid of the coming winter (gifts are offerings to God, or were), why must we get into "the holiday spirit" when our last nerves are frazzled?
Even for Christians, the celebrations have to be somewhat confusing. What do snow covered evergreens and fat Nordic dudes dressed in fur trimmed red outfits, flying around in reindeer driven sleighs, have to do with the birth of Jesus? Well? I don't think it ever snows in Bethlehem.
It's a lot easier to get worn out during the holidays, hence a lot easier to get sick. You SHOULDN'T get sick you know, because you will never finish all your holiday-related tasks. If you succumb to the viruses of early winter, my prescription is: cancel all plans and make no apologies, climb into bed with a cup of hot tea and watch any Hugh Grant movie. When you feel better, schedule a massage. It really helps.
May the force be with you through the holidays! May we remember why we celebrate, keep a sense of humor, and try not to feel so pressured. Cheers! and Shalom.