Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Monday, November 29, 2010

LEAH ST. JAMES --

My guest blogger today is Leah St.James, fellow Virginia resident and Rose (we both have novels with The Wild Rose Press). In perusing her websie, I learned we both share a love of two movies: Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing. Welcome to VintageVonnie, Leah.

Thanks, Vonnie, for having me today and giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts about one of my favorite topics for this time of year—The Holidays. You know, that month-long season that, in our culture, means cooking and baking, gathering for parties and programs, decorating, wrapping, exchanging cards, and most of all shopping. All to excess.

On a personal level, the season means something different to each of us. People of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Lights; African-Americans honor their culture with the weeklong Kwanzaa celebration; and Christians prepare for the birth of the Savior. While each of these traditions has its own customs, special foods and symbols, there is one common element for all of us, regardless of faith or culture, that marks the season—the rush of shopping that begins on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continues until the last of the "after-the-Holidays Sales" have stripped the shelves bare around January 1.


Feeding that frenzy, and hoping to attract our dollars, retailers flood our e-mail "in" boxes, our mailboxes, our newspapers, and our airwaves with can't-miss deals, at the same time sending the message to the masses that the season is "all about giving."


Really? That's what it's all about? Not love? Not peace? Just giving? It's that simple?


The thought irritates me, increasingly so each year.


Putting my cynical self aside for the moment, I have to concede that there is a basis for truth in that message. Each of the individual holidays has a component of gift-giving in its traditions. And don't get me wrong. I like giving. It brings me joy, probably more joy than getting. I have to admit that I like getting too! Isn't it human nature to want what we don't have? And aren't we lucky that "The Holidays" oblige us so abundantly?


This year it seemed we hadn't even touched our Halloween candy when signs of the gift-giving season began popping up in the stores, so by the time Black Friday rolled around last week, I was already mired in a pre-season crankiness that Santa himself couldn't have ho-ho-hoed me out of. And then I saw a YouTube video of the Niagara Chorus singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus in a busy food court. I clicked to view it not because I expected any spiritual lift, but because it's one of my favorite pieces of music. As I watched the young and old in the food court begin to smile with joy as they realized what was unfolding before them, some of them singing along as I was, I found myself tearing up. And by the time the music faded, and the singers sat back down to resume their meals, my mood had lifted, and I felt happy. I felt hope.


The reaction surprised me. How could one five-minute video clip undo weeks of annoyance over what was, in my opinion, the commercialization of the sacred? Because the music sent a message of hope, a message of joy. And I listened.


I realized then that I'd been so unhappy, so cranky over "The Holidays" for so long because I'd fallen for the sales pitches. I'd allowed those advertisers to set not just my mood, but my agenda. In reacting to their message, even with displeasure, I had been focusing on what they told me was important, and I needed to stop. I needed to choose my focus.


For me, it's all about celebrating the long-ago birth of a child in far-away land and his promise of redemption. And yes, it means giving gifts, but not just a crazed quest for the latest "gotta-have" gadget or toy. It means honoring that birth by expressing love and charity to strangers. It means demonstrating gratitude and appreciation to those in our lives who are special for one reason or another. And it means exchanging gifts with family and friends, seeing their joy as you unwrap that special something chosen just for you, or vice versa, knowing you'll cherish that memory always.


So maybe each of us just has to ride "The Holidays" for all the season's worth, holding tight to what means the most. And even if the season is all about the giving and the shopping frenzy that goes with it, we can choose to concentrate not on the things that are given, but on the messages that those gifts convey.

Wishing each of you joy and blessings throughout this special season. ~ ~ Leah St. James


(Leah's debut novel, Surrender to Sanctuary, was released in June. To learn more, please visit Leah at http://www.leahstjames.com/.)

12 comments:

P.L. Parker said...

Great post! We all forget sometimes but it's nice to be reminded in such a wonderful way why we celebrate the holidays. As for me, I love this time of year.

Grace R. Greene said...

When the children were younger and growing up, the holidays were filled with frantic action, trying to get the cleaning, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking - everything - done before Christmas. Now the children are grown and it's different. I'm grateful to be off of the shopping whirlwind, but I also miss some of the frantic fun. But now there's the opportunity to share the season in a way that I never saw when I was so busy. In the stillness, sometimes we find opportunities for joy.

Anonymous said...

I loved the eloquent reminder that we do not need to fall "victim" to the way our culture wants us to view and participate in this season....that we have the ability to decide why and how we celebrate the holidays. When we can center our spirit around what Christ's birth truly means to us, that joy will spread out to our friends and family around us. It is as if we hold a precious gold "nugget" of a gift within our hearts...that enables us to focus on the beautiful carols and music, and on the smiles and joy of those who are blessing those around them, in whatever manner they choose to do that. People will respond to whatever energy we are projecting....and what a wonderful freedom that is! Thank you, Leah, for help in a great attitude adjustment!

Denise said...

Hi Vonnie & Leah! I enjoyed the post and share Leah's frustration with the retail sector's frantic desperation at this time of the year. I'm personally offended with stores putting up Christmas displays before Halloween. It's just ridiculous. However, Leah's thoughtful reminder about the true meaning of the holiday is about the sharing was spot on. I've got to check out that YouTube video.

Thank you, Leah, for the reminder and thank you, Vonnie for having her drop by!

Denise Golinowski

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, everyone, for dropping by to share your thoughts! I'm taking a quick break from my job (in a busy advertising office...which just might be part of the reason why I'm so crazed this time of year!) and am glad to see I'm not the only one who gets frustrated. If you get a chance, do check out the video of the chorus. :-)

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great post to remind us what's important about the holidays.

Rhiannon said...

What a thoughtful post! Have a Merry Christmas, Leah.

Leah St. James said...

Thank you again, Vonnie, for having me today, and to everyone who stopped by. I'm definitely starting to get into the spirit! :-)
Leah

Pamela K. Kinney said...

The holidays are not all about the sales as the stores want us to know. Sometimes it about that video (I saw it too and been passing it along)or going to see the lights lit in downtown Richmond in a couple of days or seeing good friends at a Christmas party.
It's about gift giving, but only due to the story of the Christ Child born as a gift to the world. He gave of Himself, and isn't that the best gift of all--even for us people--give of ourselves?

Leah, thanks for a great blog post.

Anonymous said...

Great post Leah! I ran out at lunch today to buy a few gifts for Christmas and was frustrated by the crowds. Then I remembered why I was out and what a joyous time of year it is. I live in Florida and instead of decorated evergreens, we have palms. It's warm with a light breeze, the palm trees are swaying and they do look beautiful all lit up. Happy Holidays!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks again, everyone, for helping keep me in the spirit! I had a really lousy day at work today, and it helps so much to remember what truly is important in our lives.

Vonnie Davis said...

Leah, thanks so much for guest blogging with such a lovely post. For me, much of the joy of Christmas left after my 3 kids were grown. The holiday just wasn't the same. Perhaps it simply means it's time for an attitude adjustment for me. Self-assessment is always hard. Come back to Vintage Vonnie again.