Like just about every other kid growing up I thought Christmas was the absolute best. More toys than I knew what to do with. Two weeks off of school. Food on food on food. Festive music always playing in the house. What wasn’t there to love? Christmas truly was a month long experience, making it that much better. The build up to Christmas morning was long, at times painfully so, but in the most amazing way possible. That long wait was filled with so many incredible things. Decorating the Christmas tree, watching movies like Elf and The Grinch, and driving around looking at lights were all things we would do to get even more excited for Christmas day. That intangible “Christmas spirit” was so real growing up. I could see, hear, and feel it through everything around me. That spirit truly consumed me.
This year, however? Not so much. I can’t quite explain why but I just haven’t been all that excited for Christmas. By no means am I dreading Christmas, it’s not that at all. I just haven’t felt that same exhilaration that I felt as a kid. I do think a big reason is that I no longer place so much value in what I find under the tree. I like to think I’m not a materialistic person, so the presents that come with Christmas are no longer the end all, be all. But everything else that comes with Christmas season just hasn’t carried the same weight that it normally does, for whatever reason. I didn’t help decorate the tree this year. I haven’t watched a single Christmas movie. I’ve listened to Christmas music on and off but not all that much. Growing up I would be counting down the days until the 25th, trying my hardest to will the days to go by quicker. Today I glanced at the calendar and realized that Christmas is already about two weeks away.
I haven’t just felt the lack of excitement for Christmas in the secular sense. I’ve always understood the true reason for Christmas, despite all the commercialism. I’m usually able to see through the Santa-fication of Christmas to appreciate and anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth. That celebration, culminating in a beautiful mass that my family always attends on Christmas Eve, fills me with a sense of peace and rejuvenates me for the new year. The season of Advent brings that all into focus. But again, half of Advent has now passed with barely even noticing. The thought of Jesus’ birth and all the amazing, powerful things that come with it has barely registered for me.
So where has that Christmas spirit gone? As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like the Grinch trying to discover the true meaning of Christmas. I want to recapture that sense of joy and peace that I’ve associated with this season of the year. As I’ve been reflecting on this over the last few days I think I’ve found a little bit of clarity.
Growing up I had very minimal distractions from Christmas. Sure, I may have had some homework here and there but otherwise Christmas was the only thing on my mind. Today, I have just have a few more things to worry about. I’m stressed about work, trying to make sure I’m doing the best I can. Sometimes it’s hard to let that stress not follow me home. You may not know this, but I’m living with my parents for the time being until I can find a new place. It’s safe to say that’s something on the back of the brain. As a kid I had literally hours a day to think about and get amped up for Christmas. Time is something I don’t feel like I have these days. It’s always from one thing to the next, especially in the month of December. In many ways I feel like I just don’t have time to think about Christmas.
The more I think about it, the more I realize my search for the true meaning of Christmas perfectly encapsulates the last year of my life. This year has been marked by my search for something more in life, by my desire to find my purpose. At times I’ve felt stuck and lost, yearning for the days where life was simpler and more clear. But over the year I’ve learned that life changes, oftentimes in unexpected ways. And that’s good. Life is not linear. It’s just going to exponentially get better and better as you age. There will be downs and there will be struggles. There will be changes that alter your trajectory. But it’s through those changes where you really see yourself grow. For as difficult as this past year may have been I’ve grown A LOT and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So how does this all relate to Christmas? I think this is the Christmas season where my outlook on it changes for the better. As I said earlier, I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic person. For that reason the societal influence on Christmas doesn’t move the needle for me. The toys, the movies, the lights, just don’t fill me with that joy like they used to. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last year applies to this problem I’m currently having. Through this year there has truly been one thing that’s helped me more than anything – the people in my life.
This Christmas season I’m beginning to realize that it’s the people that surround me that make it special. While the last month hasn’t been filled with Christmas decorations and Christmas music, it’s been filled with something so much greater. It’s been filled with friendships, old and new. One of the best parts of the holidays as I get older is that it means a lot of my friends come home for a bit. I now associate Christmas with time spent with my best friends. I may not feel like I have time for all the standard Christmas things, but this month I will absolutely make time for my friends. Over the last month or so I’ve also had the chance to meet a lot of new people and start growing new friendships. That’s something I’m so unbelievably thankful for. That’s a change I didn’t necessarily anticipate but is something that has been filling me with unexpected joy. This Christmas is the first one I’ll have with my niece, Lily. Excitement for that is an understatement. I also don’t think it’s random chance that I’ll be spending the holidays under the same roof as my parents. I’ll be honest, once I moved out I assumed that wouldn’t ever be the case again. But I know there’s a reason that I just so happen to be back in their house this time of year.
Let’s assume that I’d spent the last few weeks doing nothing but decorate Christmas trees, baking cookies, and making snow angels. Let’s assume I had egg nog in my veins, I smelled like candy canes, and I was dressed like Buddy the Elf. But let’s assume I also had no one to share Christmas with. I don’t think I’d be too excited or joyful. I’d rather be not-so-excited about Christmasy things than spend the holiday season alone.
I also want to clarify that I don’t think I’ll never again get joy out of Christmas related things like music, decorations, and lights. I just believe that this year I was meant to discover and learn that Christmas is nothing without the important people in my life. For as beautiful as everything becomes around Christmas, it’s the people in my life that help me see how awe-inspiring and beautiful Jesus’ birth is. It’s people that bring the Christmas spirit to life and make it a real, tangible thing. The remainder of this Christmas season I intend to spend as much time as possible with the people that are important to me and be present (no pun intended) in the moment with them. My family and friends are the best gifts I could ever for and I thank God that they aren’t just under a tree one day a year.
Disclaimer: I am aware that this is the cheesiest post I’ve ever written and I don’t care.