For those of you who like a good cry, try the song “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton. It is such an honest look at depression during Christmas that it must be first-person reporting. I love the way Parton delicately sings each word of unhappiness then rallies at parts of the song which show courage and hope. Anyway, I want to talk about avoiding a hard-candy Christmas.
It is Christmas depression I want you to avoid, hard candy is just the metaphor. Twenty years ago, I was a recently divorced young man facing my own loneliness. At Christmas, you take pictures of each married couple and their children. I was recently single at the time and so had my picture taken with my parents each year instead of with a spouse. I always felt like this was photo charity given kindly to me by my parents. I felt embarrassed and really alone-made more poignant by the time of year.
I have what some do not, a decent religious education given to me as a young person. I was able to use this knowledge to get back to the basics of Christmas. My problem was I had become stuck on the idea that Christmas was all about big family gatherings, food and tradition-which do play a part. The problem is that all of these things are sustainable only by human effort, which is unsustainable. I dug into my own mind and thought about the true meaning of Christmas; it was the birth of Jesus. It was a celebration but the trappings of the celebration were not the meaning of the Holiday. It was simply a birthday party and to see it otherwise is akin to a belief that the birthday of George Washington was created as a reason to sell dishwashers at deep discount. To view Christmas as the birth of Jesus was sustainable by fact and by faith which is born of God and unending.
When I began to not look for overwhelming food and overwhelming gifts as Christmas it relieved the pressure of the holidays and left a vacuum for it’s true meaning to settle into my mind. This is where I celebrate Christmas, in my mind. I think about how vulnerable Mary and Joseph must have felt and the incredible course of events that occurred in the time when Jesus was born. I think about how everything about the birth of Jesus speaks of humility and love. To think of these things helped me remember that I was never alone, not even when I was single. I could enjoy Christmas, even if I was a loser who had to take his picture with his parents as he approached thirty.
Today is much different, I am one with a woman of beauty and heart and she loves me. She decorates our home in the very trappings of traditional Christmas and I love it. Our home reminds me of a scene from Christmas wrapping paper and to walk into that three-dimensional scene is quite lovely. To celebrate Christmas with the little traditions that came before us is fine, even helpful as long as they remind you of the true meaning of Christmas. I like all the food, family and hot toddies but I always keep the birth of Jesus in the foremost in my mind. I take time to pray differently on Christmas eve than the rest of the year, it is a time to remember this event and be thankful for it. All else is just pathway to the miraculous event.
Christmas joy does not increase with shopping or endless Christmas parties. The joy of Christmas is the knowledge that you are given eternal life. Allow yourself to accept the gift and to celebrate the fact with those nice little traditions. Eat as much hard candy as you want, I just don’t want you to have a hard-candy Christmas. Merry Christmas.