One of my favourite books is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; I re-read it every Christmas season in some form…sometimes it’s a children’s version, sometimes I listen to the audiobook while wrapping gifts or baking, however I end up reading it, I read it every year and relish in its dark familiarity. I love reading it towards the beginning or middle of the holiday season to sort of centre myself and remind myself of what the fuss is all about. There are plenty of grouchy people who mutter (or scream) “bah, humbug!” to the commercialism and heightened expectations and family drama and I have to say, they’re not wrong. But that isn’t what Christmas is all about. It’s true, this is what it has become, but if we can all remind ourselves of what it is truly about, and hold that high, perhaps we can recover the true spirit of Christmas & the holiday season.
You may wonder why I’m writing about Christmas when it’s September back-to-school season, but I’m a planner, my mind is always here and now as well as 2 and 4 months from now. Labour Day weekend marks the time when I usually organize the sibling gift exchange with my family, but this year, we’re re-considering…why are we doing this? Why have a forced gift exchange (when, let’s be real, most of us get gift cards) when instead we could create something homemade or only buy a gift if we’re thoughtfully inspired sometime over the next four months, thinking, “wow, this makes me think of this person, I know they would love that!”? Rather than, “oh crap, do you think they would like this candle? I think I’ll just get the candle, everyone likes candles, right?” Christmas, as contrived as it may have become culturally, does have pure roots of love, and grace, and generosity and I do believe that we need holidays throughout the year to remind ourselves of our shared humanity, to pause, to spend time together, and to show appreciation for the people in your life (family or not).