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/.)