In Alain de Botton’s new book he talks about the three central themes of Christmas time that pre-date Christianity: community, festivity and renewal.(1) While we all interpret and celebrate this holiday in our own way, most of us will have an opportunity to gather with loved ones, taking a break from our usual routines.
How can we make this time meaningful? How we can avoid the traditional holiday stresses and focus on what is important? And how can we use this time to reconnect with ourselves and our community? Revisiting these three pre-Christian ideas can help us take a step back and create our own meaningful interpretations of Christmas.
There has been much talk this year on social network sites of buying gifts from local artisans rather than the big retailers. It’s not too late to pick up some last minute gifts from your local stores, crafter friends, or to make your own gifts with recycled or local materials. There are also many other ways to bring a sense of community to this period: donate to your favourite charity or discover a new worthy cause; volunteer your time over Christmas; acknowledge those who provide a service to you throughout the year with a card or a simple thank you.
When it’s dark and cold outside, being festive can raise our spirits and help us experience optimism, good health and happiness. Make the most of this opportunity to gather with those you love, and simply enjoy good company. And, most important of all, don’t let false expectations of what this festive period should be like to detract from the simple pleasures – choose to invite friends or family over and make a powerful choice to serve a simple dish; gifts do not need to look as if they were plucked directly from the Harrods window display. Aim to enjoy the process just as much – if not more – than the final product: focus on the smells, colours and textures of those vegetables as you chop, slice, peel them; inhale their aromas as they roast purposefully in your oven; and experience the joy of watching your loved ones taste and savour them.
Let your to-do list get lost under the gift wrap and make the choice to rest over the next week and a half. By resting you will be able to better take on the challenges that await you in 2013. Renewal doesn’t have to mean discarding your old self, but it can be an opportunity to bring focus to areas in your life you’d like to change. It’s a good time to start thinking about and pre-planning your activities and journeys in 2013, be they metaphorical or physical. Browsing travel websites or reading about wellness retreats can help you visualize how you want to invest your time next year. Sacred Earth Journeys is one of the ideal places to start your ruminations.
Wishing you all a very peaceful, re-energizing, intentional Christmas.
(1) Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, 2012
~ Kim Bridgett