Personal #Holiday#Tradition for Tradition’s Sake? Suggestion for Change #Essay
PERSONAL HOLIDAYS:A REASONABLE POST-HOLIDAY SUGGESTION
As the holiday season ends and many breathe a sigh of relief that lasts almost until Valentine’s Day, I find myself wondering if maybe we aren’t going about all this love, peace and giving in the wrong way. I believe that now (during the post-holiday calm) is the perfect time to have an honest conversation about our winter expectations and traditions.
I’m glad for the fact that our society has built caring and giving into it’s routine, and I whole heartedly support the intentions of charities that bring food, shelter and clothing to those in need and toys to children who might otherwise have to do without. The problem I see is in tying our goodwill to the regular yearly calendar.
In a perfect world, the increased altruism of the holiday season would create a blissful reality in which miracles always happened, poor kids always got the good presents, lonely people were always united with loved ones, and tormented souls always found peace. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and good intentions can boil down to harsh realities for some people who, unlike cartoon Scrooges, don’t deserve the punishment or need another reminder about what’s really important.
The season of winter holidays puts kindness, generosity, love, poverty and loneliness in a giant spotlight that is virtually impossible to avoid. We make sacrifices and gestures of brotherly tribute lest those we love are left to wonder why they didn’t get the Christmas tree payoff the other siblings got. Some use rent and gas money to make little miracles happen for children, and sometimes, Santa Claus guilt’s struggling families into taking on new or increasing debt that follows them well into the summer.
Retail stores unleash their most savage advertising campaigns, and everywhere you go, people are saying, “Merry Christmas,” and “Have you got your shopping done?”
For many unfortunate souls, the answer to that question must be, “No. I haven’t got my shopping done. I’m still waiting on my Christmas miracle.”
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment walking a while in someone else’s shoes. These shoes are tattered, old, and quite a bit too big for you. It’s November just before Thanksgiving, and everyone who comes into the place where you work is talking about the upcoming feast. “It’s all about being thankful,” and “Now is the time for giving to the poor.”
Well, in these shoes you can’t give to the poor. You are the poor.
You’re not one of the poor who look forward to the holidays because, all of a sudden, everyone will be looking for someone to help, and people will be piling food and toys onto your doorstep. In these shoes, you’re the parent who is doing your very best to keep your children warm and fed. You’re trying to teach them that it’s better to save money than to go into debt for a one day feast because debt is a big part of how you got here. You’ve been trying to explain to them that the fact that they won’t get the computer games and clothes they want again this year, is not proof that they aren’t good, or even that they don’t want it bad enough. It means your children need other things more.
You’re trying to teach your kids that when they return to school after the holidays and everyone asks them what they got for Christmas, and brags about all their awesome presents, your child shouldn’t feel embarrassed. The season isn’t about presents, it’s about love and peace and goodwill toward men.
You’ve been trying to teach your children these things, but every year, the commercials come on, and not just the commercials telling you to buy things (although those would be bad enough). The real bummers are the public service spots that come from charities telling you to “give, give, give,” because there is absolutely nothing worse than a family that doesn’t have a turkey or a kid without the perfect toy under the tree.
Well-meaning spokespeople with sad eyes tell your children that they are pathetic and worthy of pity, and all you can do is hope that by some stroke of miracle, your kids get the gifts they want from somebody else because there is no way you can swing it, and in these shoes you really love your kids.
In these shoes you’ve been in the same place for a few years now, and your children are thinking that if you really loved them, you would do what had to be done to get them that special gift, because that’s the way it works on TV. People are selling their long hair to buy watch chains for goodness sake. There has got to be something you could sell…if you really love them.
In these shoes, wouldn’t you be happier if people would just shut up already? Wouldn’t you rather there was no holiday season, no Christmas, no Thanksgiving, and no Valentine’s day, at least just one stinking year in ten? Wouldn’t it be okay with you if no one asked, “Are you ready for Christmas?” just this once?
But, it isn’t only the “poor” shoes that can come out worse for wear in the wake of the holiday season. Some are well made, expensive and fit just fine. As a matter of fact, in these shoes, you are one of the charitable souls that will donate money to help the less fortunate during this time of love and goodwill. In these shoes however, you have no family and no significant others.
Acquaintances at work are asking you over for the holidays because there is nothing more pathetic than someone having no one with whom to share the holidays. You’re the “before” picture in every Christmas special, but you know from experience, from last year and the year before that not everyone gets to be with the one they love. Not everyone is happy, and not everyone gets a seasonal miracle. You know you’re lonely without all the movies and jewelry commercials telling you how wretched you are.
In these shoes, wouldn’t you be happier if there was no holiday season, just this one year? Wouldn’t you rather just go on about your business without everyone looking at you and being glad that they’re not you?
In these shoes, you realize that families are sitting down to dinner and praying to God that they will never be you. They pray that they will always be surrounded by love at this special time. Wouldn’t you be happier if there was no special time?
Okay, enough whining, and enough about shoes. I think you get my point.
My suggestion is this. Instead of national holidays that put the spotlight on giving and getting and on not being able to give and not getting enough, perhaps we would all be better served by personal holidays.
For example, say I chose as my personal holiday every sixty-seventh Tuesday. This would be my secret, and it would be impolite for anyone else to keep track. If I worked part-time, I wouldn’t have to worry about losing hours because my job site always closed on the holidays. If I could only afford one really great present or fifteen small ones, I could make my decision based on my heart instead of on the expectations of others.
If it was socially acceptable for me to choose my own holidays, I could bring treats to work to share with my co-workers or in any other ways I saw fit, show my kind feelings toward my fellow life forms. I could cheerfully greet the people who served me at banks and stores and restaurants, and I could give from the heart to any charity or support any cause I decided I wanted to. There would be no guilt laid upon me, and no expectations I could fail to meet. No one would know I neglected to send a holiday package because no one would know when my holiday was.
If I had my own holiday, the people with whom I chose to share my overt goodwill would be surprised and genuinely grateful. In fact, I could be generous without ever mentioning my personal holiday. I could allow my loved ones to believe that my acts of kindness were spontaneous and sincere.
In this scenario, I could make a trip to visit family, or invite the whole gang to my place and spend the time showing my affection, and if I had a rough few seasons, either due to lack of love or lack of finances, I could ignore the holidays safely without being barraged by well-meaning evil doers who seem only point out my shortcomings.
Ask yourself now, what’s wrong with my idea? Why wouldn’t it work? Who would suffer because of this?
If the majority of people are currently celebrating the holidays because of the love in their hearts and an unforced desire to give, the retail stores would not suffer because of such a change. People would go on doing their very best to make miracles happen. If, instead, a majority of people are buying holiday gifts because of guilt and cruel advertising, shouldn’t we just put a stop to it all now?
As far as the religious end of things, wouldn’t any deity be happy with such personal holidays if it meant the devoted would continue to seek out their families and make whatever connections they would normally make? So why wouldn’t this work for all of us?
With my idea of personal holidays, there would be no reason to discontinue the practice of school holidays and vacations. Families manage to deal with Spring Break and summer vacations without feeling the need to buy turkey and go on shopping sprees. Couldn’t we approach the winter vacations in the same way?
Let us not continue a tradition simply to keep money flowing. Money will flow. More of it might go to fix our cars or patch our roofs. Some of it might get spent on impulse in order to cheer up a loved one today instead of saving for next year’s joyous occasion. We might save up for two years in a row to make a down payment on something that could get us out of a jam. Or we might keep on giving, and giving and giving, but wouldn’t it feel good to not have to?
So again, here’s the motion. Let’s change from public holidays to personal ones.
Can I get a second on that?
Frankie Valinda Ghee