The Christmas season is by far my favourite time of year. I love the food, friends, family, and all the festivities that come along with it, not to mention the religious significance of this holiday.
Being a psychotherapist, however, has given me a glimpse into how this time of year is truly represented in our society. I have come to now believe that the Christmas season seems to elicit the widest variety of feelings and emotions, more so than any other time of year. How can one holiday simultaneously reflect happiness, joy, sadness, agony, dismay, jealousy, religious strife, stress, fear, anger, grief, and love? While I’m sure the list can go on, I’d like to touch on some of these feelings which seem to be most common, yet, no one really seems to talk much about openly.
To begin, let’s think for a second about the upheaval that has resulted from the innocent phrase, “Happy Holidays”. Being in a multicultural society like Canada, it has come to be understood that the holiday season encompasses the celebrations of many cultures and religions. To me, coming from a family that is a microcosm of Canadian culture, the argument stops here, and yet, it seems to be the opinion of many that this is an attack on Christmas, in addition to a variety of other wild, hate-filled accusations. Similarly, wishing someone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah or any other specific holiday doesn’t diminish the sanctity of the season, either. I welcome any comments below regarding this one...
Secondly, let’s talk about stress. It seems that social media has created an intense degree of pressure on individuals to get the “perfect” gift, not wear the same dress two Christmases in a row, taking the perfect Instagram-filtered photo before the kids dare touch their mountain of perfectly arranged gifts, and the list goes on. This stress can often be compounded for those families who don’t have enough money to feed their family, let alone spend an entire paycheque on gifts. Why do we as a society do this? Why is this important to us? Is it really helpful or enriching? I don’t have the answer, but I suspect that it has an awful lot to do with society being stuck on auto-pilot, and not challenging these sometimes debilitating traditions.
I could go on about more negativity, but it’s also important to take note of the good things people do during this time of year, such as acts of kindness, generosity, and helping others. This is just such a unique time of year which seems to capture such a wide variety of who we are as a species. Charities, for example, report a large influx in giving, sometimes upwards of 40-50% more, during the Christmas season. This is a wonderful display of generosity and caring, however, why does our focus change come mid-January through November? The problems of homelessness, poverty, loneliness, marginalization, and general need do not disappear with the snow. Remaining mindful of our surroundingss and the accompanying needs can often be drowned out by our own daily stressors, needs, and difficulties. Perhaps if everyone could purposefully pay attention and attend to global needs not just at Christmas, but year round, maybe this could aide in bringing some of the magic of the holiday season to every-day life.
So, if you haven’t stopped reading yet, I urge you to stop and reflect on the actual reason for this, and every, season—be kind, compassionate, accepting, and loving to others all year round. Stop and think before reacting, set a good example for future generations, and show gratitude for the good things in life.
From the entire OSRC team, have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and wonderful Holiday Season.