By Qin Sun Stubis
It’s December again, that magical time of the year when Santa Claus comes to life for those who believe in him, and a dot of light in the sky can plausibly be a reindeer’s nose. It is the one time when everyone can be a child, ask for things and believe in miracles. But what really gives this holiday season the mystical charm and inspirational qualities?
While colorful lights, elaborate decorations, festive banquets and presents create much of the celebratory atmosphere, true holiday spirit comes from within us, inspired by wonderful, often fairytale-like stories, traditions and songs that have lasted many generations.
A Christmas Carol, for instance, is a fine example of what the holiday season is really about. By having Ebenezer Scrooge, a rascal of a man, converted to goodness, Charles Dickens showed us the ultimate power of Christmas.
By telling a story of misfits who become heroes, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” spreads holiday joy to every being on Earth. So what if an elephant has pink dots or an elf wants to be a dentist! This is not a story advocating tolerance. It’s about everyone being happy as they are and having a place where they fit in, hopefully not just during the holiday season, but all year ‘round.
Holidays are for looking into ourselves and making us better people. And gift-giving is ultimately about thinking of the people around us, our families, co-workers, neighbors, and friends, and even people we don’t know. It’s about doing something to show that we care. That’s why the most meaningful holiday presents are often not wrapped in shiny paper with a bow on top. They are not always sitting under a Christmas tree or around a menorah, or hanging on the fireplace, waiting to delight us. As we grow older and (hopefully) wiser we realize that the most precious gifts in life cannot be bought with money, even if some of them do have price tags. Thoughtfulness counts first, and has the ultimate value.
I remember many years ago how my husband, Mark, and I started to teach our children the true meaning of the holidays by having them involved in giving gifts to children in need. Through a check or a toy, a lesson was taught about sharing and love. That lesson was our gift to our children.
This December arrives at the lowest point of a long economic recession. Millions are still out of work, homeless and desperate. Many battle to put dinner on the table every night. For them, the holidays are filled with anxiety. If only every more fortunate American family could share a bit of their joy with a less fortunate family, this holiday season could become the most special instead of the most depressing one, making Charles Dickens’ spirit smile.
So this year every time you hear the Salvation Army’s bells ringing, do think how to spread your holiday cheer to help those who really need it.
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