Do you remember the fifties when Christmas ornaments were limited to fragile glass ornaments? I do. I also remember the sixties, when everyone had aluminum trees and four color spotlights. Live trees re-emerged in the seventies, but flocking was all the rage. As tree fads changed, so did the ornaments. Now they do the most amazing things with plastic. I wonder how many reprimands for roughness I could have avoided if plastic had been so versatile in my childhood.
No matter how durable Christmas ornaments may become, it’s important to remember, people are fragile. My childhood memories are full of Christmases I shared with broken people. I remember a pair of aunts whispering in a corner, almost out of earshot. I was too young to understand the significance of their comments about smelling someone’s breath. I thought they were talking about dental hygiene. I remember wistful glances at front doors, followed by comments like, “but he said he’d come.” I remember the first Christmas we tried to celebrate after Grandmother passed away.
For many people Christmas is nothing but a legacy of disappointments. Others never knew the joy of orange slice candy and tangerines in their stocking, but are pressured by their families to fund Kardashian-sized holiday fantasies. Along with holly and carols, ’tis the season for suicide – ask anyone who volunteers at a crisis center or works in an emergency room. Be gentle with the people around you.
The older someone is, the more likely sadness and disappointment is a part of their holiday.
- I’m excited that this year Mother’s holiday china will grace my table, but it will do so, because my parents have moved to a retirement home.
- This will also be the first Christmas without my beloved Aunt Edie. Even when we lived many states away from her, our Christmases were enlivened by brown paper packages tied up with string, lovingly chosen by my favorite aunt.
- To keep my mom from having to get out in the bad weather and shop for the mountains of presents we once shared, a few years ago I insisted we start a holiday gift exchange where each person only bought gifts for one other person. Mother sees the wisdom of this, but she misses the pure joy of shopping for those she loves and wrapping their presents.
And these are just a small sampling of the underside of what will be a happy celebration of the holiday for my family.
If Christmas is not a time of joy for you, the quickest way to get out of a holiday funk is to quit looking in the mirror and counting your own sorrows. There are so many opportunities in this season to reach out to others. And you don’t have to spend any money. Just google “Christmas volunteer opportunities” and you’ll find more ways to be an elf than you can imagine.
Be gentle with people this Christmas. As you shop in the mall, hang up your cell phone and instead of texting, look strangers in the eye and smile at them. Instead of playing chicken to get that parking space, smile and gesture for the other car to park. Surprise the kid at the fast food joint by saying please and thank you. Stay at home one evening and call anyone you think might be having difficulty dealing with the season. Surprise people with old fashioned greeting cards with handwritten comments, instead of mass emailing a Christmas joke to your entire contact list.
What suggestions do you have for having a nicer, gentler Christmas this year?