’'Tis the season,’ the commercials tell me.
I watch, mildly annoyed, as elves and reindeer dance across the screen to share sales promotions for one retailer after another. If it's the season of giving, then give me a break! I don't want to hear one more note of a holiday jingle or spend one more Saturday stuck in shopping traffic. I even feel a violence towards the harmless penguin inflatable my neighbour has installed. 'Tis the season,’ I hear left and right, as if this justifies the stress and headaches that have become synonymous with this time of year.
At this point in the year most people are trying to gather close with family and friends; this is regardless of religion or heritage. Most offices close for Christmas or New Year's. We make a point to take vacation time and relax with loved ones. Even when I worked in retail, it was one of the two holidays when the stores were completely closed. Everyone looks forward to the opportunity to rest – to pause our fast-forward lives for just a moment as another year wanes. This is the time of year to reflect on our relationships and share in the warmth of loved ones who are near.
Yet, we scramble to get the best deal on travel, or that gift for Aunt Matilda, or to make sure we have all the ingredients for green bean casserole, and we forget about the heart of the holidays. We have, quite literally, bought into this expectation that our holiday gathering look and feel a certain way. There must be lights, and a tree, and presents, and eggnog! If you’re not singing ‘Joy to the World’ by 1 December, then you’re just being a Scrooge. The holidays are supposed to be about giving – and that should not mean giving in to the superficial and material. We have set such irresponsible and unrealistic expectations on our relationship with the holiday season that we are doomed to be stressed during what should be ‘the most wonderful time of the year!’
This realization came to me during a recent holiday party hosted by my good friends from IofC US. In all honesty, I was unsure that I could summon the holiday cheer I needed to make it though the party. As I made my way into the house I was immediately greeted and welcomed – it was as if it had been days and not months since I last saw these friends. The evening passed by quickly, accompanied by good food and conversations, and I never once felt stressed. Yes, there was a lovely lit tree for decoration, but it could have been a cactus for all anyone cared. No one was interested in tinsel and bows because we were more interested in one another! At one point I sat back and simply watched my friends; enjoying the company and being grateful for these unlikely but precious relationships that came from my joining IofC.
That moment lingers in my mind as I think about the real reason why this season is so important. ‘Tis the season of love, of peace, and of gratitude for friends and family who may be near or far. Our relationship with each largely determines how we approach the new year ahead. Do we choose to get caught up in the surface level differences or do we look deeper and choose to see the light that emanates from inside every person? Now, when I hear ‘’Tis the season!’ I choose to smile and think about the loved ones who have made my life so much richer. ‘Tis the season to look beyond the wrapping paper and be grateful for the ‘presence’ inside.
Tracie Mooneyham spent the first part of her career working in the business sector for various retail establishments while attending Randolph-Macon college. She is presently employed by a family foundation as their Program and Grants Manager. When not maintaining the digital world of grant making, she enjoys volunteering with Initiatives of Change International, American Association of University Women, and the Interfaith Community of Greater Richmond. In her downtime she enjoys kayaking, gardening, and taking pictures for Instagram.
NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.