Donna Reed/Voices: Returning to Christmas

Donna Reed/Voices: Returning to Christmas

By DONNA REED

It's time to deck the halls again. It's time to make those lists and check them twice. It's time to start planning for the best Christmas ever. If it has been a while since you felt that certain unexplainable December magic that we all have experienced but can't quite define, then maybe it's time to stop, reflect and "Return to Christmas."

In Martin Hanford's popular book series, Where's Waldo, the reader looks high and low for Waldo in his red and white striped shirt, stocking cap and dark-rimmed glasses. On page after page of these delightful puzzle books, the tiny character of Waldo is hidden in plain sight amongst competing figures in the picture. Although he stands right before our eyes, sometimes he is so difficult to find.

The analogy for the holiday then is, "Where's Christmas? If that yuletide spirit is missing this season, how do we discover it once again; how do we return to Christmas?

For starters, we may need to ask ourselves just what the holiday season really means to us. Is it steeped in sacred traditions? Secular pastimes? If we can answer this, then we are on the way back to our own definition of this special day. Perhaps returning to those unmistakable feelings that are a special part of the season might require us to take a fresh look at things.

I'm reminded of a friend who shared a story from a Christmas past. On the long drive home from the big family gathering at Uncle Arnold's, she realized she had somehow missed those magical moments the day was supposed to bring. She had put on her best Christmas face and dealt with the day's inevitably stressful situations. Now her children were squabbling in the back seat, very un-Christmas-like, and her husband was silent after a long, dutiful day of sharing Christmas with Uncle Arnold "because we always do it this way."

If Christmas means being surrounded by extended family and a few distant cousins whose names don't readily come to mind, then one should enjoy every moment of such a festive gathering. Statistically, however, that isn't everybody's definition of "The Best Christmas Ever." What would happen if that family didn't partake of the big yearly extravaganza? "But we have to attend Uncle Arnold's Christmas dinner. Everyone expects us to be there."

Why not wish Uncle Arnold and others the best of holidays with no animosity, no apologies? Here's hoping Uncle Arnold and all have a wonderful time, and then simply and respectfully return to Christmas. Returning to what Christmas truly means to us is a win-win for all. It isn't self-serving. We can be happy for others and not take part in how they find their own particular definition of Christmas joy.

Why do we need to return to Christmas? Because Christmas renews our spirit. The pealing of church bells or the carols sung by a choir may renew that spirit. The catch of a familiar aroma that brings back memories of our childhood kitchen may return us to that special time. Whatever it is that nudges us to rediscover those joyful holiday feelings can only be a good thing.

Destressing our lives at this time of the year by making choices that are better for one's particular circumstances will probably be better for everyone. Wherever and however we find laughter and joy at this holiday season is how we return to Christmas.

Once my siblings and I had families of our own, my wise mother gave us this advice...to make memories, don't just hold tight to the past, but start new traditions with your own children. Try "returning" to the true meaning of the season by moving forward.

So we reflect. Is finding that Christmas spirit this year about enjoying the old and familiar, or is it about starting new and different customs? Whatever the decision, just remember...who's in charge of having a Merry Christmas? You are.

Donna Reed is a freelance writer from Champaign.

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion

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