Let’s face it, for many of us the coming Holiday Season is not something we look forward to. There are various reasons why people don’t like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. For some it is because they have little or no family so it is a time that reminds them of their loneliness. For others it may be that they have recently lost a loved one and don’t want to face the Holidays without them. Still others may have some family issues going on that make family gatherings difficult and uncomfortable. For others it may be a lack of money and resources. The list of reasons why people don’t look forward to this time of year is varied. But we all have to face the season at some point, unless we cut ourselves off from life, so how can we get through the season graciously?
First of all we need to remind ourselves as to the purpose of each holiday. Thanksgiving is traditionally a celebration of saying thank you to God for good crops and provisions for the winter. So embrace the spirit and spend some time being thankful. Christmas is traditionally a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and giving gifts to family and friends. It is a way to honor Christ for the greatest gift given to mankind which of course is JC Himself. New Year’s is a time to celebrate the old year ending and a New Year beginning. Out with the old attitudes and in with the new attitudes in the form of New Year resolutions. This is what each holiday used to represent.
Through the years marketing strategists have tried to convince us that Thanksgiving is the best time to go shopping for bargain hunters in search of great deals for Christmas gifts. They then try to convince us that Christmas is a time to splurge on many gifts for many people. In particular we are to spend what we don’t have to purchase the latest gismo and gadget that our family (especially kids) just can’t possibly live without! And then New Years is a time to get drunk and forget about all the credit card bills coming due in January. Oh and don’t forget about the bowl games that have taken over the TV during these holidays! We simply can’t live without our favorite sport! And did I mention food? We are to gain at least ten pounds or otherwise we aren’t celebrating correctly.
So what is a Christian to do with the Holidays? How do we handle the uncomfortable situations? Are we required to purchase a gift for those relatives we don’t really like? Do we really have to share custody of our children with ex-family members? Do we buy into the marketing strategies and go with the flow or do we step off the universe for six weeks until the hubbub dies down. I am sure that if there were flights to the moon to avoid the Holidays some of us would have our seats reserved pronto!
Why don’t we go back to the beginning, and analyze why we celebrate Holidays in the first place. In many places in the Old and New Testament in the Bible there are examples of people feasting and celebrating. For instance when Queen Esther saved her people from total destruction her uncle, Mordecai, asked his fellow Jews to set aside time to celebrate each year as a remembrance of Esther saving their race. In fact today the Jewish people still celebrate Esther’s success.
“And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor,” Esther 9:20-22, (English Standard Version or ESV).
Did you see what was involved in the celebration? Notice that they not only set aside two days to celebrate but they were to also have lots of good food (feasting) and send each other gifts of food especially to the people who were poor. We see similar celebrations in the book of Nehemiah (Chapter 8:12) when the people had finished working to rebuild the wall and moved into their new homes. Remember also that in the New Testament Jesus was attending a celebration of a wedding in Cana (John 2) where He performed the first recorded miracle of His ministry. Also during Christ’s time on earth He celebrated the various Jewish celebrations such as Passover.
Celebrating human accomplishments of great feats is pretty normal, wouldn’t you say? That is why the first people to come across the waters on the Mayflower also wanted to celebrate their first crop with their new friends (Indians) and family in a New World. Thus Thanksgiving was born as a holiday. Christmas came into being as a time to celebrate Christ’s birth. New Year’s came into being to celebrate the old and prepare for the New Year. So I repeat my earlier question, how can we get through the holidays graciously?
The key word is with grace. If you have breath in your lungs then you are blessed and can be gracious. But there are some simple coping mechanisms that we can also incorporate to make the holidays more enjoyable for us who don’t look forward to them.
First of all we need to have some perspective. We can get through the Holidays if we remember that God has given us the best gift and will give us daily the strength to endure and persevere. We might even have some fun too but we need to put God in charge of our lives. Once we have firmly placed God at the helm we can relax and have no worries right? Wrong!
Secondly we need to plan well. If you know that Auntie Tornado is coming and she is bringing her offspring Malice and Harm then you need to have a plan with how to deal with these troublesome relatives. There are numerous ways to work around troublesome relatives so think creatively. If they are house wreckers then make sure the breakables are out of sight. If they are gossips then make sure that there is nothing to gossip about. If they are drunkards then don’t serve alcohol…get the picture? Plan for the inevitable and try to side-step it.
Third we need to have a giving spirit and share. If you are like me and have a split household then having a giving spirit and learning to share is the only way to survive the Holidays. I have learned to go with the flow of things. So I can’t have my family all together on Christmas then I will plan for Christmas Eve or whenever they can be with me. Those who can’t come I still try to include by using technology to connect. We often Skype while opening Christmas presents as a wonderful way to be together. When you think about it, the most precious gift you have ever been given are probably your family members, children and grand-children so learn to share them with the other side of the family!
Fourth, who says we have to spend all that money on gifts that most people probably don’t want or need and might just return them to the store anyway? Will we bow to the peer pressure of our culture? No! We can be smart about things and budget our money and resources. One of my tricks to financial survival at Christmas is to give as Santa gifts one thing my children really want and then fill the rest of Santa gifts with things they need. I buy winter clothes for school and underwear and socks, new pajamas and new mittens and give them at Christmas rather than when school begins. I also have candies and cookies in their stockings. Sometimes I have made these and other times I purchase them. As for the adults in my life I give money or a homemade item. One thing I love to give is tea and coffee, that way I know they will use it! I like to knit and crochet and sew. Giving a small gift like a knitted dishcloth and some homemade food items is always a nice gift and fun to make.
Finally allow yourself to have fun. Life is tough and times are hard for many people so try to find things that make you laugh. Watch some old Christmas movies on television and pop some popcorn and make hot chocolate and have some fun. Or go make a snowman in the front yard but have some fun. The best Christmas gift ever is memories of good times so go make some!
Until next time…Katherine