So, I go to a local shopping center to visit the Starbucks there with a friend, and……
Well, here it is a week before Thanksgiving, and already playing is the Christmas Music, the tree is already up in their central fountain, and….Santa is arriving Saturday…the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This, of course, got me thinking about the upcoming holiday season.
You see, we are coming up on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, the Feast of Kali, Yule, and a bunch of other holidays all at the same time. Not everyone celebrates all, or, really, more then one or so, of these. But, you know..there is alot shared between them…(Author’s note: I am not that familiar with the Feast of Kali or Kwanzaa, I just know they are at this time of year, so I included them for the sake of completeness.)
You see, Thanksgiving, first, has become a secular holiday, a time of reflection on the past year and what we are “Thankful for.” Well, officially, anyway. Really, it has become about getting together with relatives, whether you can stand them or not, and consuming large amounts of food. I do not know about the versions of Thanksgiving in other countries, but in the U.S., it has become a day to celebrate gluttony free of guilt. Why, though, has the reflective nature, the almost Pagan reflection on the past year, become lost? Oh…right, I probably said it right there. But, no matter what spiritual path one follows, amidst the turkey and cranberry and stuffing and pie, maybe you should take a moment, and look around? Do you have a job? There are plenty of people right now who don’t. Plenty who do not have a house, let along high speed internet. Look around, and think about those things that you can truly be thankful you have. This is about more then just thanking some diety for what you have…It is about putting things into perspective. We have thousands of troubles on a daily basis, all those things we worry about, like the rent, the utilities, the car payment, if we can get Little Timmy to soccer practice on time, the bake sale at Susie’s school, the paper due next week, the visit to the significant other’s parents for the first time that day. All these and more stress us out, and worry us. Taking a day, a single day to reflect on what has gone right over the year, though? That is more precious then gold and helps restore a sense of balance to our lives, even if only for a few days.
Of course, after Thanksgiving comes the Holiday Month of December. Gift giving, trees, more time with family, debt, and a bunch of other fun concerns. Also, all the Christmas specials, the people complaining about nativity scenes on public land, the people complaining about the people complaining, the stress of last minute shopping. Again, a commercialization, regardless of what your religious beliefs are. Worse, of course, is that so many people cannot put aside their differences, and instead focus on what makes us all different.
Growing up, I was always taught that Christmas Time was a time of “peace on Earth, good will towards man.” What I see is quite different. I have seen people throw bottles and rocks at Pagans celebrating Yule, I have known of synagogues that were vandalized during Hanukkah, of churches burned down by arsonists. Why? No, seriously, why? My family has a Pagan who volunteers to work on Christmas so co-workers can have the day off with their family, who still comes to the family gathering, gives presents with great thought, despite most of the family being nominally Christian. When asked why, the response was “It is not about the holiday…it is about what it represents. Anyone who cannot let this be a time of good will and putting aside difference, they are not someone I want to know. Now open your present! You’re holding up Grandma’s nap!” Perhaps more people can, and should, take this example: Quit worrying about the trappings, and look for the meaning behind the holiday. That meaning is not found in any holy text, instead it is found in one simple precept that people always seem to forget: Be excellent to each other.