Stock photo: David Dilbert/Pexels

We Americans can breathe a tentative sigh of relief. The COVID threat seems to have subsided.  We have survived another contentious election cycle.

Many of us are taking a collective breath — but not for long.  “The Holidays,” as some folks refer to the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, are upon us.  You may think they are not  as stressful or  contentious as the midterm elections, but think again.   

The day after Thanksgiving, or sometimes Halloween, your nearest big box store will turn into a sea of green and red.  Holiday music will fill the air in most stores.  Inflatable Santas and accompanying decorations can trigger a panic attack in  some.

The jarring voices on TV and in the world at large are flashing these not-so-subliminal messages:  “Hurry, hurry, the holidays are coming.” Our psyches  are responding in a  frenzy  to get it all done. In our already over-scheduled, over-lived lifestyles,  folks are piling on more “must do’s.”   And many are not enjoying it.

As I go about my days, given my curious nature, I can’t help but eavesdrop.  Folks are talking above the din; folks are talking on their phones; and some are talking to themselves.  The sentiments expressed are often anxiety, stress, dread and loneliness.

Yes, this “most wonderful season of all” can trigger some not-so-wonderful memories.  Those who are  bereaved can feel their hearts dim. Family anxiety can crop up.  After all, not everyone has a Norman Rockwell family.  Sometimes families  are  more like the Hatfields and McCoys.  Then, of course, getting it all bought, wrapped and ready — while worrying about next month’s credit card statements —  can cause plenty of anxiety.

The most unusual  comment I heard was:  “I gotta do Christmas.” Huh?  How does one go about doing Christmas? She may have meant she had to cook, but still it’s a tad fuzzy in my mind.  Christmas will come whether we do it or not!

The “Christmas war” continues to rage.  It seems that  the holiday ostensibly dedicated to spreading joy, feasting , and merry-making is mired in one contention or another.  We hear:  “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I get that!  “The reason for the season” is not entirely true. Remember from the 20th of November to Jan. 24, there are at least 14 different religious holidays.  Wishing someone “happy holidays” may include:

Hanukkah. People celebrate Hanukkah from Dec. 18 to Dec. 26  by lighting menorahs, spinning dreidels, exchanging gifts and eating delicious food.

Kwanzaa.  Roughly 5 million people celebrate Kwanzaa each year.  It begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 1.  Gifts of Kurumba (creativity)  are given to loved ones.

Winter Solstice.  December means the holiday of Yule is coming.  It falls on Dec. 21.  The winter solstice celebrates the rebirth of the sun because days get long from then on out.

Las Posadas.  From Dec. 16 through Dec. 24, Las Posadas is celebrated by many Hispanic families.  It’s a nine-day celebration commencing with a procession of candles, songs, and sometimes people playing the parts of Mary and Joseph.  Every night of Las Posadas is celebrated with gifts, songs, tamales, and prayer.  I have had the privilege of participating in a Las Posadas celebration more than once. 

Some folks think Christmas is too commercial, others think it is too religious — or not religious enough. Some find the very word Christmas offensive while for others  the word “holiday” is also offensive.    Good Lord! There was a popular musical in the ‘60s “Stop the World – I Want to get off.”   I feel like this sometimes, do you? 

When did the beautiful sentiment of “peace on earth and good will” to all get replaced with angst, anxiety, intolerance and Christmas wars.   Haven’t we had enough of hostilities that turn brothers and sisters against one other? 

Peace, good will, tranquility, serenity, reconciliation,  calm and quiet are not just words, they are ways of being.  We can give this to the world if we could just stop belly-aching. 

Sometimes I wish I could travel  to “back then” when Christmas and the holiday season meant more harmony,  family time, Midnight Mass and small handmade gifts created with love and not in China.  

Our priests, ministers, rabbis, and church leaders are akin to the ancient prophets crying out in the wilderness.  They  are cautioning us to end hostilities and join in the business of healing this broken world.

You may be thinking that this is a hard task in a divided nation. Some of us have been through a lot of stuff this year; our country has been turned upside down by hate and intolerant rhetoric.  Yet, the Pollyanna in me has faith in the human race.

If we can metaphorically light one candle to offset the darkness and strive for the betterment of humanity, perhaps the world would be a brighter place. Folks, we unite under one flag (or should), we pray to the Divine in whatever way we choose to. 

Can’t we  unify and attempt to live out the ancient unchanging message of this season:  Peace on earth, good will to all? Then and only then can the world live as one. 

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