Word Count: 511 | Time to Read: 2 minutes | DECEMBER 2013
The Many Moods of the Holidays
The holiday season has always fascinated me. There is something compelling and uniquely human about the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day in Western culture*.
I have learned to see the holiday season as a metaphor for our lives , for the joys and sorrows that we must manage every day of the year.
Some years ago, I was listening to a commentary on the holidays. It pointed to how the holiday season is a time when the tension between joy and sadness is greater than at any other time of the year.
When I heard this, I saw the holidays in a whole new light. This time of year is a continual drama of joy and sadness.
Think of Handel's Messiah, a staple of holiday music. Handel's masterpiece tells the whole story of Christ's life - his birth, his death, and his resurrection. The joyous celebration of his birth stands in stark contrast to the agony of his death.
Or notice how the holidays are a time to celebrate family and friends as well as a time to remember lost or broken relationships, or those who have passed. All the way around, the holidays are steeped in a longing for deep connection.
Notice the amazing range of holiday music from light-and-fluffy tunes to deeply moving carols and hymns.
The holidays are a time for reflection, both on the accomplishments of the past as well as the disappointments and regrets. It's also a time to look forward to both the possibilities that lie ahead and the challenges that might await.
The holidays are, in reality, no different than the rest of our lives. Daily, we work through the ebb and flow of emotions and responses. And yet the holidays are different because we allow ourselves to feel things with much greater intensity, perhaps, than we do at other times in the year.
In this way, the holiday season is a fine "laboratory" for studying how we manage the tension between joy and sadness. As individuals. In our families. In our work. And as a culture. This time of year, it's all out there, right in front of us to see:
- How we attempt to hold onto the joyful, happy side of life and avoid sadness whenever possible.
- How we can also be swept up in sad melancholy.
- How we use food, drink, and materialism to exaggerate the pleasure and numb ourselves to the pain of our more difficult emotions.
In the end, this great tension, between the joy and sadness of the holidays, is a gift. It's an opportunity to practice being both with the joy as well as with the sadness of the holidays, without being swept up in either. It's a chance to avoid the inclination to hold onto or push away either emotion. It's a chance to live fully in the reality that every day of our lives is an interwoven flow of both joy and sadness.May this holiday season, in all of its dimensions, enrich you and those near-and-dear to you.
*A note on cultural bias. I appreciate that not all of you come from or belong to the Christian faith and the traditions that influence this particular blog. I invite you, however, to investigate how this blog nonetheless applies to you and your life at this time of year.