I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! We had a nice, low key celebration. My husband and I decided several weeks ago that we weren't going to buy each other a bunch of stuff. Truthfully, neither of us needs or wants a thing, we are truly fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food in our tummies and money in the bank, something that so many families are struggling with these days. We opted instead to buy tickets to Cirque Du Soleil which is coming to our area in February. To me, experiences are every bit (if not more) important sometimes than having a physical item in your hands. In all honesty, there aren't many things that I have received as gifts that have given me the same "wow" factor as much as seeing the hot air balloons at the ABQ festival, the sound of the engines at the Indy 500, seeing "Rent" live with two of the original actors, the chills up my spine hearing Michael Crawford sing "Gethsemane" in person--those are the things that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Even having to hitch-hike to a Moody Blues concert in the rain has it's special memories for me (LONG story) that I will never forget. Special times spent with children, family, pets--the list is endless. Sometimes we forget that those kinds of experiences are what make us who we are, not the things that we own.
This morning it all really hit home with me, even more so than usual, when a friend posted about her frustration with Christmas. She's been struggling with the whole "Christmas spirit" thing all season. It didn't help any when she went on Facebook and it seemed like all of the posts were people either bragging about what they got for gifts, or whining and complaining about what they didn't get, how spoiled this person or that person was, and just a general dissatisfaction overall. Why?!?!?! Where did things get so out of line, our thinking so messed up on the true feelings of the season?
I personally blame a lot of it on Madison Avenue and all of the advertising of what a "perfect" holiday is supposed to be like. So many unachievable expectations of what the perfect gift is, the perfect meal and all of that crap presented to us in a barrage of advertising that now starts even before Halloween is over with. ARGH!!!! I can honestly say that I'm glad that the holiday is over with so I don't have to watch another stupid advertisement. THIS ISN'T WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT FOLKS!!! And we wonder why we are so stressed at this time of year?!?!
When it comes to growing up and Christmas memories, I have some really awesome ones. Christmas caroling with the church youth group, family get togethers, special school events, holiday parties--between Thanksgiving and New Year there was so much going on, but it didn't revolve around shopping. It was more about getting together with friends and family, eating great food, enjoying the company of others and getting in to the spirit of Christmas. One of my favorite memories was something our student council did every year when I was in high school. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh does a major fund raising push every year around the holidays and many of the schools in the area did a variety of things to contribute. Our student council came up with a wide variety of ideas to raise money--a "sexy" legs competition, a candy cane sale, "slave" day where you could purchase one of the student council members and make them do a variety of things from cleaning out your locker to carrying your books. They raised a ton of money, the students were so in to it, and it went to a terrific cause. I doubt these days that they are even allowed to do this as we have become so politically correct, you can't even say the word Christmas in some of the schools for fear of offending someone. Give me a break.
I would be curious to know just how many children of the current generation even know what the true meaning of Christmas is? "Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men" seems like such a foreign concept anymore, in this age of social media, war, celebrity and mass consumption. We are always wanting more More MORE instead of being satisfied and happy with the blessings that we have. And it just seems like it is getting worse every single day. We've forgotten what is important, the difference between a need and a want, being thankful for our good fortune and how to be nice or gratious. We are in a sad state of affairs.
That said, think about the true meaning of Christmas. It isn't about perfection, it isn't about accumulating possessions. It is about the ultimate gift, given to all of us who believe in the Christian faith, that gives us the ability to keep moving forward. It's not a tangible, physical item, but something that resides in your heart. We need to quit comparing ourselves to others and instead work on things to improve the quality of life for everyone, even in the smallest ways. And we need to re-learn how to enjoy the holiday for what it is, not what the fat cats in media want us to think it is.
Have a great weekend everyone, and I hope that we can all use the next few days to de-stress and refocus :)