The Holidays give us Hope for the Future – Christmas 2008

Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas!  The ubiquitous greetings of the season.  Late Autumn, with Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time to enjoy the family and give thanks for the blessings of this life.

The Norman Rockwell version is certainly the vision we all anticipate.  Perhaps more important, we raise our expectations to meet that imaginary standard, one that certainly exists on canvas, but rarely does real life live up to these lofty standards.

I suppose in saying such things, I will be labeled a Grinch…or worse.

I think in large measure, we do it to ourselves.  As with most things in life reality rarely meets our expectations.

At Thanksgiving one frequently hears what a shame it is that we don’t acknowledge the blessings we have throughout the year.  We get that out of the way on Thanksgiving Day and never seem to give it much thought the rest of the time.

I have often wondered the converse.  Why is it that we expect so much of the Holidays?  The likelihood that something sad or unpleasant will happen to us on any given day is the same regardless of what tradition and mythology tells us.

Life really does have its ups and downs and those cycles have nothing to do with the calendar.  Joy can come at any time.  Likewise, sorrow and grief knows no date.

Throughout the year, schedules and stress seem to prevent us from delighting in the small things in life.  We save up all that need for joy and happiness then demand that the Holidays meet our expectations.

When the inevitable let-down occurs, it is easy to feel a melancholy creep into the season.  Much of this discontent is superficial, but some of the feeling has substance.

No matter how celebratory the season gets, there is a sorrow that inevitably tempers this time of year for me. Several years ago, my mother died over Christmas and my father passed away shortly thereafter.  Our extended family used to gather at my parent’s house for Christmas, but that venue no longer exists except in family photos.

Life is never all highs or all lows and like the stock market, those fluctuations are random.  Yet, we cling to our idyllic notions. Why? In the words of Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast…”

Hope is the true import of the Holiday Season.  Regardless of what has happened or is happening in our lives, there is always hope.  Christmas in particular, brings that concept to life, the feeling that things can turn out for the best.

“Without hope, we have nothing. Without it we are nothing.”  Hope is what makes us human.  We are aware of ourselves and our surroundings. We are aware of life’s limitations, but that does not deter us from believing: In ourselves. In others. In our dreams.

Hope is often what decides our fate.  Hope gives people the strength to persevere in the face of great odds: Against disease; Against nature; Against evil.

It also gives us the strength to act: In the face of uncertainty; When our survival instinct tells us to retreat; To face down that which we fear.

The Holidays are not magical. It is not what they are: just another set of days.  It is what they make us believe.  In that we should all rejoice because tomorrow is what we make it.

Merry Christmas to all.

Christmas 2008

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