The soul felt its worth

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, December 2014

Tailoring Christmas celebrations to your own sense of meaning.

All over town the holiday lights are beginning to twinkle and once again I find my soul stirring in anticipation of Christmas. I can’t help it: I’m a dreamer and an optimist and every year I’m confident that this will be the best Christmas ever. This will be the year I have everything ready well in advance so I can put up my feet (or kick up my heels) with the rest of the gang. This will be the year I stumble upon some real understanding of life and its purpose, perhaps while on a night-time walk under a cold starry sky, or in the pages of a book stumbled upon, or in my childhood church revisited, where the story celebrated in hymns and ritual still thrums in a yearning place deep in my heart.

The ancient origins and contemporary culture of Christmas make for a frenetic and enigmatic season—of religious and secular, family and relationships, nostalgia and regret, of concerts and parties, food and drink, gifts and more gifts, trees in the house, noise and commotion, shattered nerves, more food and drink to the point of comfortless glut, of clutter and debt, and inevitably, of vague disappointment. It’s a wonder we even survive the holidays, let alone come back for more each year.

Fortunately there are saner ways to get through the season. Given the innate human need for purpose and fulfillment, a good start would be to take back the wheel of one’s own celebration instead of riding along holly-jolly-like in the self-serving vehicle of Christmas commerce. Here are a few ideas for charting a less encumbered course:

Find some meaning and let it guide the celebration. Despite its grand public persona, Christmas is really a private affair that’s readily tailored to individual and family values and priorities. Every old ritual can give way to a new one. Christmas is for everyone; there are really no rules. 

Be grateful for your blessings—it helps ward off envy and dissatisfaction. I’ve lucked out with family, good health and the gift of purposeful work. Anything more is icing on the Christmas cake. Comparison with others is pointless and emotionally exhausting. 

Ignore expectations that are not your own. Don’t let others sabotage your holiday. After years of practise I find it easy to dismiss anything that instructs me to: set an all-new and extravagant table; decorate in the latest colours and baubles; make custom cards, gourmet patés and designer cookies; effortlessly throw a huge party; buy the latest and greatest must-haves; undergo a personal and wardrobe transformation, and so on. It helps to remember that this stuff is all concocted and produced in July to make us buy (and fret) our way through December.

Do something for someone in need. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as helping someone else.

Nurture special connections without stressing yourself. My in-town circle of friends has mostly evolved beyond the ubiquitous gift exchange to a shared holiday experience. We might take in a concert, or walk to a nearby café to treat ourselves to someone else’s Christmas cuisine and ambiance. The eaterie appreciates the business and we get to step off the holiday merry-go-round for a while.

Think outside the box (and ease the credit card strain). Last year my daughter and I spent a leisurely day shopping at Victoria’s great thrift shops. Then we bundled the treasures into our cloth Santa bags and—voila!—less stress, less waste, more unique gifts and lots of genuine appreciation. 

Spend time outdoors. Nature is a great healer, a proven antidote to stress and anxiety, a perfect place to spend time in December. Even a quick walk in the local park can do wonders for body and soul. If you have a few hours, go hug a giant Christmas tree at one of the regional parks and thrill your inner child.

From the ancient hymn, O Holy Night, comes this lovely, hope-filled snippet of a line: “Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” May your celebration this month, whatever you wish to call it and however you choose to celebrate it, culminate in having your soul feel its worth. You and your loved ones deserve nothing less.    

Trudy thanks all of her readers for their ongoing support and wishes everyone a very happy December.