Do a Google search on ‘the heart of the holidays’ or the ‘meaning of Christmas’, and you’ll find no end of listings and links from the religious to the non. There are a lot of movie titles along these lines, recommended for you, along with holiday gift ideas and putting the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas. As we near the centre of the holiday, it’s a time to reflect, for each of us, what the true meaning of the most important day of the year, aside from your own birthday, really means.
Whether this is a religious holiday for you or not, the spirit of Christmas, of the holiday time, is a spiritual feeling that comes over most of us. You might feel more inclined to be charitable to people you don’t know, you might even choose to be kinder to the family that gets under your skin any other day of the year. You might even choose, the hardest of all, to be kind to yourself.
The best gift of the year, it seems to me, is the gift we give ourselves when we put family and good feelings before all. Everyone has struggles and the struggle for peacefulness continues and even gets magnified over the holiday. This is when the most people feel the most lonely, when those without might realize the lack more keenly, and might fall down the well of depression over the way life is now, for you, and how it’s been over the last year. It’s an easy trap to fall into, being an Ebenezer through the holiday.
I was re-watching A Christmas Carol last night and I was struck by two obvious things: Jacob Marley really held the firm together (Ebenezer seems to have always been the weak link in the company, based on his general attitude), and the person harmed the most through hate is the hater, which is Scrooge himself. The crust of cynicism had grown so thick with Ebenezer Scrooge that his own self hate made him hate all things, even the spirit of Christmas. The hater is harmed most. Marianne Moore once said in her poem In Distrust of Merits, just as the Roman playwright Plautus had said many centuries before her, “Man is wolf to man/And we devour ourselves.” Wolf may be mankind’s nature, but it’s also true the nature of mankind is the dove, in a juxtaposed tension of choices. Or as Bukowski put it once in a poem, “The bluebird inside of me.”
It may also be that people aren’t good to each other, as Bukowski also once said. But it’s also true that the dove is important in our history as people around the world; the dove helped Moses discover land. Land can be read as both a physical place, of terra firma, and as the metaphorical guide to a metaphoric landing: of peace after turmoil and conflict, wholeness after days of rain and storm, and the final resting place we call peace, or peace-of-mind, or home. The heart of the holidays is our own heart, the home of all, the dove, the bluebird, full of the spirit of mankind, in a state of fullhearted giving without thinking.
Love where you are right now, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. And don’t stop the habit. It might actually be the easiest and best New Year’s resolution you’ll ever make.
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