The card came from a rather unlikely source, which got me thinking. It seems that, regardless of any religious or spiritual bent, once December hits, just about everyone I know starts seeking some greater meaning, something more profound than an extra 40% off of the already low sale prices on cashmere scarves. Have you noticed this? Have you felt it yourself?
Charities abound to give us a financial outlet for this quest for meaning. Presents for Patients. Toys for Tots. Coats for Kids. Children’s hospitals, the Salvation Army, rescue missions. Even my beloved alma mater sent me an online holiday greeting reminding me what a great time of year it is to support scholarship funds at the university. Surely donating funds from our already strained budgets will help fill the void. Right?
If not, we’re bombarded with other, more active, opportunities to get involved and embrace the spirit of the season. Ice skate with Santa. Breakfast with Santa. Brunch with Santa. (Lord, when does that man find time to make any toys?) You can get your Christmas fix at the ballet, the symphony, the theater, your kids’ school or from flash mobs at the mall. Visit railroad displays, light displays, gingerbread house displays. Or partake in the complete spectacle of retail shopping. Early bird specials! Doorbuster savings! Lowest prices of the season! That will get you in the spirit. Right?
Or there’s baking. Who doesn’t melt at the aroma of fresh-baked Christmas cookies, just like mom used to make? Never fear – you have at least 40,000 awesome, delicious, super-simple yet dazzlingly elegant recipes to choose from staring at you from the cover of every magazine in the grocery aisle. Don’t even think you can get away with baking just two or three. Look at that platter of twenty different varieties! Isn’t that lovely? You should totally do that. That will put you in the spirit. Right?
Is it any wonder we have trouble digging the meaning from all this chaos?
Don’t get me wrong, my family does all of this. We give – joyfully – to Toys for Tots, Coats for Kids, and our church’s food collection which my husband and daughter help run every year. We have lunch with Santa, we head downtown to see the gingerbread and Santa displays, we ice skate around the Christmas tree, and we pop in at our beloved alma mater to see their gorgeous international holiday display (though scholarship donations are out – sorry). And I will bake. Lots.
But for me, the true meaning of the season comes not from the activity and the bustle, but from the quiet moments I carve for myself . The evenings when I sit with my cup of eggnog coffee in the soft glow of my tree with two children snuggled beside me watching favorite holiday specials. It’s then that I think about the things that matter most: my husband, children, family, friends. The nativity on my piano. That’s my meaning. What’s yours?