I think it was the lull of the Christmas jazz softly lilting throughout the house that brought on the introspection. You see, I had a few minutes before the cookies were done baking, and I was suddenly struck by the peacefulness of the house.
I found myself considering whether we had been selfish to choose a quiet Christmas celebration this year over the chaotic festivities taking place at my grandmother’s residence. But as I took a moment to savor the fact that we didn’t have to rush anywhere or drive for hours, I embraced that sense of calm that comes with making the right decision.
As an adult, I continue to struggle with the expectations that come with the holidays. I’ve never been a fan of doing something just for the sake of tradition. Traditions are important, but they need to be justified—or at least enjoyed. The holidays, as portrayed by the American media, don’t make sense to me. And as the years go by, I find myself struggling against participating in holidays that have become so focused on excess.
I want simple. I want pure. I want to focus on what’s really important: family, friends, breathing deeply, and enjoying the moment. These are what make life worth living, not stuff.
It is this sentiment that really colored my view of the holidays this year. I was determined to focus on what was important.
Hence, this year my mother and I tackled Thanksgiving together, invited the whole family, filled the house with loved ones, and it was both wonderful and exhausting. Yet, the exhaustion was completely worth it because the focus of the day was how thankful we all were to be together.
I can happily endure the chaos of a holiday focused on family, thankfulness, and sustenance. Those themes make sense to me. What I can’t seem to reconcile is the overwhelming focus on the acquisition of stuff. I say stuff because most of it we don’t need, and some of it we don’t even want. Thanks to the success of advertising and the pressure created by our capitalist, consumer culture, Christmas has become the antithesis of Thanksgiving—and I’m not even getting into the revolting tradition of Black Friday. No, instead of leisurely enjoying conversations with loved ones, Christmas with the extended family has become this tense holding pattern until the bell sounds and wrapping paper starts flying.
This is not the kind of holiday I choose to support.
Which brings us back to yesterday’s moment of reflection…
The guilt I felt over not attending Christmas at my grandmother’s was quickly replaced with a quiet joy. For on the previous evening, we celebrated with my parents and sister, and not only was “simple” our theme of choice, but somehow that requirement made the gifts more personal and thoughtful. Some were crafted, and others were purchased, but they were far from the realm of “stuff” purchased just for the sake of having something to give. And it was evident that our company, our care for one another, was the focus of the evening.
So as I look back on yesterday’s pause of appreciation and prepare to say “good bye” to the holidays for another year, I can gladly say “good bye” and not “good riddance” because I feel like this year finally rekindled something that was lost: the beauty of simplicity.
That is the kind of Christmas I want to celebrate. That simple gathering that focuses on people and incorporates small gifts from the heart….that’s what I want to embrace and look forward to each year.
And so, as your holidays draw to a close…it is with a full heart and a quiet house that I wish you joy, peace, and simplicity.