It’s Christmas Eve! We have reached a fever pitch of anticipation! The trees are trimmed, the cookies are baked, and the gifts are all wrapped. The turkey is thawed and ready to be stuffed. The stockings are hung by the chimney (and if you are in the midst of the hot spell and running the air conditioning there is no chance of them being burned by the fire). The only thing left to do is to await the arrival of the big, jolly man and his sleigh. We are all feeling cheerful, festive, and excited! Except if we aren’t…
Wait, what is that you say? It’s Christmastime! We are supposed to be filled with the joy & love of the season! We are expected to be happy, happy, happy! But what if that isn’t always the case?
The fact is that the holidays are not easy for some people. There are those who would prefer that the month of December quietly pass them by. The reality is that there are people who struggle during the Christmas season, and we need to be mindful of their feelings.
I have friends who have lost loved ones within the past few weeks and months. This is the first year they will be “celebrating” without a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, or a friend. I know people who are caring for family members who are gravely, critically ill. They will spend Christmas Eve spoon-feeding soup and medicine, offering sponge baths, and praying to their higher power for a pain free night for a cherished soul.
There are people who have been disappointed by those who should be closest to them. There are others who have been stressed to the breaking point by demanding, pushy family members who do not know, or do not care, when they are asking for too much. There are those who are so lonely that they would do anything to have some of those pushy people fighting for their attention. There are some who are gasping for breath under the crushing weight of depression.
Yes, buried beneath the glow of the bright lights, silenced by the sounds of the nonstop Christmas music on the radio, you will find them if you only look. They are the newly divorced, spending Christmas Eve alone with a freshly broken heart while their ex has the house full of kids. They are the spouses of law enforcement and military personnel, resigned to yet another holiday making sure things are just right for the kids while trying not to wonder if their loved ones will make it home for next year’s festivities. They are the parents desperate to provide gifts not of cellphones and laptops, but merely a new doll or a toy firetruck. They are the recently widowed, or the children who have lost a parent, gazing up to the heavens and trying to understand why.
We need to acknowledge and accept that there are people who simply prefer not to celebrate, or to do so in a low-key fashion. We must understand that they are trying to maintain a facade of cheerfulness while inside they are coming apart. We cannot trivialize their feelings by telling them to, “Cheer up!” or by admonishing them to, “Stop acting like a Scrooge!”
If we truly do keep Christmas in our hearts all year long then we must be sure to keep it in our hearts during the month of December. Let us give those who are struggling the gift of our patience. Let us bestow the present of love upon those who are suffering. Let us understand if they wish only to go to church to light a candle and reflect in solitude rather than accepting our invitation to a raucous Christmas party. Let us be available without demand, and let us let them do what feels right for them. Let us know that they do not wish to in any way diminish or minimize our celebrations by taking a more subdued approach to the season.
I am thankful not to be one who has lost a loved one. I am grateful that my family and friends are healthy and happy. I am, however, one who has had her Christmas spirit kicked around this year. I am one of the ones who was disappointed by some while being pushed over the edge by others. I do not cry often, but I have been reduced to tears more than once over the past few weeks, causing me to retreat and regroup. I tell you this not to ask for any sympathy, as life presents us all with tough times. I tell you this because it has helped me to have a greater understanding for what people do struggle with this time of year. It has led me to a place where I get that the best some can do is to spend a quiet Christmas Eve at home, eating tacos and watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. (Yes, this is our grand plan for Christmas Eve, and I am looking forward to a quiet night remembering who and what matters the most.)
Whatever holiday you celebrate, and however you choose to celebrate it, I wish for you an abundance of peace and love. If you are one for whom this post resonates know that I hold you in a special place in my heart this year. If you know someone for whom this post may resonate I ask that you offer them an extra dose of comfort and encouragement over the next few days.