Happy Holidays?

There are more and more blogs, songs on the radio, shows on TV, and people thinking and talking about Christmas, as the 25th of December gets nearer. I have no problem with that. I even expect it. My complaint is a contrast in people’s behavior the rest of the year.

In the United States, shopping, spending money (and even going into debt) to purchase material “gifts” for oneself and others with the expectation of receiving something (of equal or higher “value”) in return now seem like the real “reason for the season” – at least as far as many retail stores and their customer are concerned.

Most thought, talk, and acts of “Goodwill” tend to mainly focus on giving money, toys, or “gifts” of some kind – especially to sick, poor or homeless children. This is by no means inherently wrong or bad, but it does seem to overlook and downplay what is usually needed or will make (more of) a difference in people’s lives and the world. What’s “worse” is that in what seems like a lot of people’s compulsive desire to find the perfect, or at least a suitable, “gift” (at the best possible price!), they become incredibly anxious, aggressive and inconsiderate to anyone and everyone else in their way.

It is already dark, cold and wet in most places (in the northern hemisphere) near the time of the winter solstice. That so many people seem to (unwittingly?) go out of their way to essentially bring and induce more stress and pain in the world seems quite odd, disturbing and even hypocritical during a time supposedly promoting “Goodwill toward all”….

Where did this custom and tradition of (essentially) “limiting” Goodwill to a few days at the end of the year come from? It has NOTHING to do with anyone’s birth. NO religious or spiritual teaching promotes only being “good” or “thoughtful” at only certain times and not others. If charitable, loving thoughts, feelings, and actions are important, sincere and genuine; they warrant doing ALL year round, not just for a few days at the end of the year.

There is NO (good) reason for the “best” and most “beloved” parts of Christmas or any other “holiday” to NOT be experienced, practiced, and shared all year round. Sharing and being generous are usually good things, yet I think there is probably too much emphasis on “giving” (especially money or material things that are purchased). There are many ways to show love, kindness, and appreciation (all of which are in far more need than material things) that “cost” NOTHING, yet whose (enduring) “value” is PRICELESS (and unforgettable).

If there is anything “important” about Christmas – or Goodwill, then why limit it to only one or even a few days a year (at most)? Is there some kind of goodness quota threshold that cannot be exceeded? The same is true for how many people think and act one day a week for a few hours in their “house of worship”. Do they think no one notices or cares about the rest of their life?

Like eating, sleeping, and exercise, what is done consistently is usually much more impactful (in the long run) than what is done only occasionally…. I’d be fine with a little less holiday “cheer”, “spirit”, and “good works” – and a little more throughout the rest of the year.

I don’t mean to upset anyone who believes otherwise, but Jesus was NOT actually born in the winter at all, let alone on December 25th. My youngest child was, though!

Children did not always receive presents on the anniversary of their birth, but that now seems to be the norm (and expectation). How sad that someone’s being “present” at all is not “gift” enough (for all). While it may be nice to have MORE people “celebrating” on the day you were born, it’s not so great when few know or remember that it’s YOUR day, too. Being born on a major (shopping) “holiday” tends to reduce the number of gifts and personal attention you get compared to those born on other days. This is true for “lesser” holidays as well. One of my aunts was born on Halloween.

Perhaps it is because I am not one that I don’t understand why those who call themselves “Christians” even care about Christmas – even it was more than just MY son’s birthday. It’s only a Christian holiday at all because the Catholic Church couldn’t get pagans to stop celebrating the winter solstice. New Year’s Eve is only a “big deal” because it precedes the 8th day after the “make believe” birth – when Jewish boys (like baby “Jesus”) are usually ritually circumcised. The custom of staying up late the night before is less a celebration (of the New Year) than to protect the child from any “evil” or harm befalling him before entering into the “Covenant”.

I am always amazed that EASTER and the “Resurrection” is NOT the focus of Christianity – especially since Jesus’ “teachings” seldom are. Instead, there is a fascination with the Crucifixion, Christmas…and Santa Claus – also known as Kris Kringle, Sinterklaas, and St. Nicholas. How did HE (and gifts under trees) become so important?

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. In the U.S., gifts are usually given each of the 8 nights, but this not so in most other countries. Hanukkah is actually a very minor holiday – that commemorates a military victory much more than a miracle of one day’s oil lasting a week. Think of it as the Jewish Cinco de Mayo. The miracle of both was a small band of local fighters defeating the most powerful army in the world at the time. The religious “significance” is really the willingness to stand up (and fight to the death if necessary) for what one believes.

Singing (Hebrew or Adam Sandler’s) songs, eating oily fried foods, and playing with spinning tops for chocolate money aside, Hanukkah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew) is a good time to reflect upon:

What matters (most) to you?
What will you take a stand for?
What are you willing to die for?
And more importantly, what will you live for?

© 2008 – 2017, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 70 post in this blog.

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