Friday, December 24, 2010

What's Up With Christmas?

Each year, same thing, the C word stresses me out. Tense body, reluctance in the heart, annoyed thoughts . . . I can't help it. And then the guilt from not joining the revelers' ranks. Shouldn't I rejoice? and be happy according to the numerous reminders in the ads, the aisles at the CVS drugstore, the blessings from my email contacts, the Christmas Carols on the radio? The forced joy of Christmas can be hard on the heart.

I tried to ignore the whole thing at first. No tree, no presents, no party planned. That was three weeks ago. Then, my oldest daughter asked if I had thought about the menu for Christmas Eve. The youngest one wanted to know what I wanted. Husband wondered about the guests list. Needless, to say, I gave in. Last Sunday, we drove around to several lots, in search of a not too tall tree, that could accommodate our living room and found out we were not the only ones to favor small specimens. A solution was found at the lot near our house, where attendant cut down a tree to fit our requirements. And gifted us with his sweet words: "My job is to make everyone happy". 

A place was made for the tree in the usual corner. Husband and I bickered some as we strived for the perfect straightness . . . Awareness guarded against lingering effects from our exchange, and I found joy in stringing the trees with a plain strand of lights. No clutter of ornaments this year. I aimed for pared down simplicity. The rustic Nativity scene made it on the hallway table, under Buddha's watchful gaze. And I remembered to hide the baby Jesus that was to be born at midnight exactly on the night of Christmas Eve. 

Nativity Scene and Buddha
Down the Christmas to-do list, I went. Making more lists, of gifts to be bought, or made, of guests to invite for Christmas Eve dinner, of dishes to be made, and groceries to be bought, of messes to be cleaned up, of linens to be laundered, of helpers to be enlisted in the kitchen . . . I figured, the more organized, the more chances for a peaceful event. This morning, the tree is lit up, Christmas music is playing, husband and daughter are cooking, many dishes already populate the counter, and ironed out tablecloths and napkins await on the dining room table. Getting ready for twenty two guests.

Sitting earlier this morning, I came home to the steady flow of breath, and the reassuring feel of the earth against feet, and blood coursing through joined hands. And felt immense gratitude for the gift of mindfulness.

What is your Christmas like? happy, sad, lonely, crowded, tense, calm, angry, reluctant, wishful . . . So many possible variations.

Being with the reality of Christmas.


  1. Good luck! I'm a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. My plans are to finish laundry today, do some work since files got uploaded today and tomorrow - maybe go mushrooming. That's about it. No gifts to buy. I had my birthday get together a few weeks ago. I just don't see what the big deal is.

  2. Thank you for your honesty Marguerite!

    "Being with the *reality* of Christmas" - and not the contrived platitudes and cliches that are so often expected by a date on a calendar. But maybe I sound too grinch-like :)

    The older I get the more I want to live authentically, honoring life as it is no matter what the calendar says - but of course that doesn't fit with this culture. So many of us are experiencing some sort of hardship due to economics, health or emotional/mental baggage. Although we still "celebrate" Christmas here because of family expectations. The best I can do this year is "equanimity" - being present with a sense of composure and stillness in the chaos and supposed "jubilation" of the season. And yet, the Light still gets through here, and I sit with it in Silence - content.

    Am hoping you find Peace in your celebrations :) Christine


  4. For many years I did the big Christmas thing but both last year and this have been simple events, just the 3 of us, some wonderful food prepared together and lots of quiet time.

    Yours sounds wonderfully festive too. Enjoy & many wishes for a joyful holiday season.

  5. Quiet time this morning before mad crush at 3:30. Trying not to cling to this preferred ease of being but also trying not to run too far ahead in the mind with what's to come. Basically, trying to allow and flow and to remember to allow and flow.

  6. Thank you all, for keeping joining in. Christmas Eve turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with some family members I don't get to see often. Once more, I also found it difficult to stay mindful in the midst of the busyness that characterizes such events. Same thing happened again today during Christmas day's lunch at some friends' house.

    Why the pace is so slow in the monastery, and the silence golden . . .

    May you all have a joyful, peaceful, and mindful Christmas day.

  7. I swapped presents and presence with dear beloved days before not because it's Christmas but because I love them. I don't see the need to celebrate a christian event in any shape or form. I acknowledge that a great teacher was born and that is enough. I cooked a nice meal and enjoyed it waiting patiently for my retreat to start. And today it does.

    With much peace

  8. Thank you Miro, for gift of your presence, here on this blog also. And may you dwell in mindfulness, and joy throughout your retreat. When you come back, maybe you can tell me where you went? :)

    With metta.