The holiday season is still my favorite time of year, although the reasons why have changed. When I was a kid, I would eagerly count down the days until Christmas, then on Christmas Eve, I would lie awake all night in anticipation of the coming morning. I rarely ever slept. I would think about all the presents Santa was going to leave under the tree and it filled me with excitement.
Once, I tried to convince my sister to sneak down with me at 5 am, but that idea was angrily shot down. Unlike me, she was able to sleep the night before. I was so impatient. I loved ripping open my gifts and leaving the floor strewn with wrapping paper and boxes. I was like a mini tornado. Life was simpler back then.
Just like everything in life though, things change as you get older. In my wise age of 29, I have a much greater appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas. I am proud that I don’t get caught up in manufactured holiday fervor. That’s not to say it’s all bad – I do enjoy the decorations and lights and ugly sweaters. But there is already enough stress in my life – worrying about getting the perfect gift for everyone is not something I choose to dwell on, not to mention navigating the rabid crowds at the mall fighting for every last deal. I hate crowds, especially now that I have balance issues and can get knocked over easily.
In the past it was toys that would bring me the greatest joy; now it is the selflessness of others. Maybe I am more aware of these stories of giving now that I am older, but it seems that they are all over the news these days. That is fine by me – they help to offset the awful events in going on in the world and serve as a nice counterbalance.
The holiday season is the time of year when we are reminded that society still has redeeming qualities. Sadly we need to be reminded of that from time to time. For example, in New Haven, a few days before Christmas, a pile of toys meant for underprivileged youth were stolen from a police precinct (how that happened I have no idea). Parents and volunteers were momentarily devastated, however the community (especially Wal-Mart) came to the rescue and more than made up for it by providing the financial resources necessary to repurchase the gifts and then some.
I could hear these stories all day. In a world filled with strife and hate, it is good to be reminded from time to time that the overwhelming majority of people are kind, gentle-hearted individuals.
That’s what the season is about, and where the true joy lies – showing kindness to others. In short, it is people that make the holidays special, whether it’s being generous towards those less fortunate, or enjoying company with the ones you love. Toys are fleeting and grow old quickly. Love is enduring.
Sadly, that’s what makes this particular holiday season so tough – my aunt passed away suddenly last Monday, four days before Christmas.
My Aunt Gail (we called her Auntie) never wanted anything for herself, and was always generous and giving to others. I never heard her utter a bad word about anyone, and there was not a malicious bone in her body. Her loss has created a void in our family that will not easily be replaced.
Compounding the sorrow, this isn’t the first relative to pass away in my family around Christmas time. My cousin passed away from a heart attack eight years ago, a week before Christmas, and other relatives have died near the holiday and shortly after the New Year. My family seems to take a disproportionate number of hits this time of year, which has gradually made this a bittersweet season for us all.
It is tough, no question. But it brings into focus just how important family is, and how we should never take anyone for granted. Toys are great when you are a kid, but when you grow up, you realize that the best gifts in life are those that will someday be taken away, long before you are ready to let go.