How do you typically spend your holiday season? Do you spend it alone or with many other people? What do you often look forward to? The family, food, holiday music, holiday parties, time off from work, snow, decorations, the football games and parades, and the natural meaning in the air between the days of Thanksgiving and Christmas always gives a surge of energy. Whatever it is that gives you energy during this time of year, does it provide your holiday season with greater purpose? Many people find themselves attracted to the holiday spirit, even the most resistant among us. But does having that holiday spirit truly add meaning to your holiday? This article will discuss ways to increase the meaning of your Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Each holiday season I find myself, as many others do, so much more connected to others than I typically would be throughout the year. I find that my senses are more in tune to life around me and that the small things we so often pass by each day, become more significant. The ability to “meditate” on family connection, the lyrics of beautiful holiday music, and the gratitude of having food, warmth, and shelter is so much more meaningful during this time of year. Why that is, many of us probably do not know. But the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas should not just consist of good food, tradition, spending large amounts of money, receiving gifts, and nonstop shopping, but it should also consist of:
- Community: A community is a small group of people who are close to each other in proximity. But the type of “community” I am referring to is the community that brings all cultures, ages, and ethnicities together because of one common need that we all have which is the unending search for meaning. Of course, we should all strive for a sense of community throughout the year, but the holiday season provides us with greater opportunities to express “community.” We should have an open heart and mind during this time of year. Whose to say we will see this same time next year?
- Giving/Sharing: Giving and sharing, big or small, is something that should occur every single day of our lives. But for many people, the holiday season serves as a springboard to giving and being open to others who are in need. Giving does not have to consist of money or material wealth. Giving could mean helping a stressed mom who has a child with mental health challenges, helping a caregiver pay a bill or go grocery shopping, or spending one-on-one time with a loved one who lives alone. Giving means giving the things that cannot be taken away, sold, bought, or broken.
- Embracing a “higher” purpose: What I mean by this is being open minded to seeing life differently than you are used to seeing it. For example, you might encounter a situation where for some reason you just feel closer to people and more open to them and their needs. Embrace this, don’t push it away because it seems “strange.” I’m of the firm belief that when you feel this way, you are opening your heart to someone who just might need someone else to care. My way of embracing a “higher” purpose is to reflect on my faith and the gratitude I have for seeing faith work in my life.
- Social responsibility: Social responsibility entails simple things such as being mindful of holding a door open for someone walking behind you, giving a few dollars to the homeless person asking for help, volunteering your time with the right intentions, genuinely praying for someone who is going through a tough time, saying “thank you” to someone who has done something for you, and/or sharing a simple smile with the person walking by you. Social responsibility means that you are being responsible for how things around you turn out. Examples of those who took social responsibility to heart include but is not limited to: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedy’s, or Gandhi.
- Peace of mind: The holiday season should be a time for you to have alone time to reflect upon major changes of the year, goals for the next year, and places you have been or would like to be. It should be a time for you to measure your experiences and determine if you are truly living the way you intend to. Do you really want to just live to make money, struggle, earn status, or gather more degrees and material wealth? Or would you rather live a balanced life of catering to your needs and the needs of your loved one’s while also being available to others? Wouldn’t you prefer a life that offered you real joy and purpose? What about your spiritual life? Do you want to learn more about creation and Who is responsible for all the beauty around you? Do you want to be able to pull over in life and truly experience life, not just slide by each day? Use this time to kickstart a greater purpose in your life.
I hope that you will remind yourself to embrace the most important things about this time of year. With all of the beautiful attractions of this holiday (such as the food, family, fun, laughter, friends, parades, traditions, decorations, music, etc.), we should be mindful of those who are in need, even of basic essentials (love, family, shelter, food, employment, good mental and medical health, etc). We should also, me included, check our hearts and conscience to ensure that we are not being self-serving and missing what truly matters in this life. Reach out! Give someone something that can never be replaced or taken away.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 26, 2013 but has been updated to reflect comprehensiveness and accuracy.