What Holiday do you Celebrate?

What holiday do you celebrate?  Is yours a home that celebrates Christmas? Kwanzaa? Hanukkah? Whether the candles are red, green, black, or blue, the message of our Winter holidays is the same. The message is one of kindness, caring, and human connection. Those flickering candles remind us to spread a message of love and light.

The stress in the world today makes this time of year even more valuable; we all desperately need to hear Winter’s message of kindness and to act upon it. I have realized that patience with an elderly person in the checkout line, a kind word for the young sales clerk, a warm smile for a stranger…each of these costs me nothing and yet could be of great value to the recipient. 

I love the holidays; I am excited for December to arrive so that I can decorate the house, trim the tree, bake warm cookies laced with fragrant wintry spices, listen to favorite carols, and wrap packages for gift-giving.  In my mind, the Winter holidays reflect what our Earth is telling us; it is time to slow down and stay warm. I love long Winter nights when I can snuggle in front of a fire, eat a big bowl of soup with crusty homemade bread, and sip hot cocoa or warm wassail. I am always eager to get busy baking those cookies and smelling the pungent spices of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Indeed, yes,I love the holiday season!

Yet, the world we live in is media-driven; advertisers pour millions into ad campaigns to promote “stuff”.  The challenge is for me to keep my mind on what matters. I remember a Psychology Today magazine cover about 45 years ago.  It showed a child surrounded by a mountain of crumpled wrapping paper, bows, and toys tossed about the room.  The child was not interested any of the new toys, rather he was happily using his imagination and creativity while playing in one of the empty cardboard boxes!  The message was loud and clear. Running up a credit card bill is not going to make the holidays a success.

Sitting by the fire staring at the flickering flames is the perfect time for me to focus on how my life fits into the Universe. It is a time of reflection, self-examination, and goal setting.  How can my life make the world a gentler place for the people with whom I come in contact?  What can I do to improve the person I see looking back at me in the mirror each morning?  How can I keep my focus on the true meaning of these Winter holidays?

And so, when I sat and really thought about what I wanted; it was very clear to me. I want the people I love and cherish to be happy and healthy.  If that is the case, the real question is, what can I give my dearest ones that would make them happy?  I quickly realized that “stuff” was not the answer. I determined that what they want is the very best version of me… time spent with mequality time…put-your-phone-away-and-focus-entirely-on-me time.

Guess what? That is what we all want.  Your husband, wife, sister, parent, and even the young person at the checkout all want a moment of your undivided attention. Actually, that is really all it takes for them to feel valued. I have learned that simple things make people feel valued: making eye contact, smiling, listening, and replying.  All free!  

So, what I know for sure is that the message of Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah is not “spend”.  The message is “stop”…notice the people around you, count your blessings, value the time we have with those we love, create precious memories, celebrate life, and spread kindness.  So, from my home to yours, Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Be the light.

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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