The Christmas holiday has once again come and gone. I hope for you it brought peace and fellowship. I was involved in a discussion with a friend from a very different culture today, in which we explained to each other our perceptions of this holiday time. The discussion has left me thoughtful, contemplating how differently I view the holiday season in recent years. I have never been a very materialistic person, and as I grow older, I find myself moving further and further away from the Western materialistic approach to Christmas and more deeply into the spiritual gifts it has to give.
For example, it has become our tradition to share our Christmas table with a friend or two in need or who is alone over the holidays. We began this tradition about fifteen years ago, and have continued it throughout our daughter’s life. In this way, we share the bounty we are so fortunate to have, of our hearts and of our table. At the same time, we help bring some comfort and companionship to people we care about who would otherwise be alone. It began as a natural outward reaching in those long years in which we tried and failed repeatedly to build a family of our own. The love and family longings we felt within were turned outward, and we nurtured others instead. It fulfilled something within us to do so, and eased the painful childless quiet of our home in these times that are so much about children and family. Twelve years after the eventual birth of our child, we continue the tradition. Why? Because to us, that is what Christmas is about. It is not about the presents we give or receive, or the parties we attend or the events we participate in. It has become about connecting and sharing of love and caring.
As we have become more aware of our footprint on this earth, the giving of material gifts has given way to the gift of activities or the gifts of our hands, our hearts and our time. Each year has come to include a donation of time and effort to a community activity or cause (playing Santa for the annual food drive or running lantern-making workshops for the annual Festival of Lights for peace). And each year, the rewards are felt more deeply and the holiday season loses its stressful, strident quality.
No more is the season about cramming in dozens of activities between working long hours, shopping endlessly, trying to get it all done and sliding sideways into Christmas at a skid. The segue from everyday life into the holidays is subtle and gentle. It becomes a gentle interlude for reflection and the enjoyment of family time. I have thought a great deal about this today, and about how and why it has changed. I found myself able to put my finger on it firmly for my friend: Life for me is now the fulfillment of passion every day. I live the life I love and was born to live, in which I give myself and my family time to do the things we love, time to be together and to see each other and to talk. Life has become a daily celebration, a daily meditation on what really matters, and so there is not so much to distinguish every day from holiday. I am so often filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and satisfaction from the daily work of my hands, heart and mind. It is this that tells me clearly that I have found my place.
The New Year is so traditionally a time of new beginnings. Last night, I dreamed long and in a very detailed way of each of the areas in my life that have been difficult in this year. I woke to startling clarity of mind and a certainty that each of those areas would see growth and change this year. It was not a plan, it was a knowledge, an understanding. I see clearly before me an open doorway, welcoming me with possibility. There is such a sense of potential in doorways and apertures that hint at that pause we often take just before the next action. Captured in that moment is all the anticipation, the excitement, the wondering what lies beyond, what the tantalising glimpses through the crack in the wood hint at. I am entering 2012 with my eye firmly on the crack in the wood and the tantalising glimpse of vista beyond.
I hope for you the year will bring growth and satisfaction.