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The Meaning of the Season

December 11, 2011

I have been absorbed of late in a very pressing project (writing a novel in a month – do-able but stressful) and hadn’t given much thought to the upcoming Christmas season.  This isn’t actually unusual for me – for years I was too caught up in teaching, testing, and evaluating end-of-term projects and exams to get much done in the way of shopping and decorating until the very last minute (although I would try, whenever possible, to squeeze in some of the shopping tasks on weekends early in the term).

Christmas 2010Since ‘retiring’ I thought I’d be way ahead of the game. Ha ha ha ha ha (or should I say, Ho ho ho ho ho?)  Last year I actually did get everything done in a timely fashion – I had the shopping finished and the gifts wrapped before the middle of December, and the (tiny little fibre optic) tree up, and other decorations in place a week later.  It felt good.

Not this year.  With Chapter 10 finished (the end of the book), and only final edits and minor revisions ahead of me (before a December 15 submission deadline), I decided to take last Thursday ‘off’ and do some shopping. I had a list a half a mile long, and a dozen places to go.  I’d gotten several things already (I love after-Christmas and summer sidewalk sales for the bargains they offer, and generally pick up ‘stocking stuffers’ whenever the mood strikes) but the ‘main’ gifts (things the ‘kids’ need/want and the usual socks / underwear / pyjamas that men never seem to buy for themselves) hadn’t yet been purchased.  I also wanted to pick up a number of items for the ‘toy and gift drive’ for the local women’s shelter. So I grabbed my purse with my charge cards inside and headed for the mall (with several other stops along the way).

Santa ClausI’d already been to three stores before I got to the mall, and had just spent $200 in Zeller’s when I headed over to the food court for lunch.  On the way back – with the full intention of weaving my way in and out of the stores on the other side of the mall – a miraculous thing happened. Santa Claus – the jolly old elf himself – approached me in front of his gingerbread house-of-a-photo booth (I suppose he was taking a little stretch break before his afternoon stint of asking boys and girls if they’d been good and what they wanted for Christmas), extended his hand, said hello, and wished me a Merry Christmas!  Wow – what a thrill!

Visiting Santa 1961Now, at my age, you can assume that I no longer ‘believe’ in Santa Claus.  But, then again, maybe I do.  I believe in the hope and promise and magic of the season. I believe in giving to others. I believe people can do better and be nicer than they usually are, and that oftentimes those characteristics are only exhibited during this special time of the year.  And, somehow, having Santa single me out to shake my hand reminded me of all that – of the true meaning of the season: Peace on earth, goodwill toward men (and women); joy to the world.

NOTE: I am not particularly religious, so I’m leaving that aspect of the season out of this post; however, I do acknowledge that what we celebrate at this time of the year has a great deal to do with a number of belief systems.

Joy To The WorldThe songs that are sung (or played, endlessly, on radio stations and in the malls starting somewhere around November 1) repeat the words and phrases listed above (among others) until we stop listening.  We (mostly) get so caught up in rushing from store to store, filling the wish list of people who probably don’t need what we’re buying them (and/or don’t necessarily want it) that we forget what it’s all really about.  I know sometimes I do – and that bothers me a great deal.  I was so busy worrying about where I was going to find a particular gift for my son (something that seemed to be sold out everywhere I went), that it took a nudge from Santa to put me back ‘on track’. (I finally ended up getting that one ‘special’ gift, but I also realized that if I hadn’t found it, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world – for him, or for me.) 

Most of the people I know (including my own family) already have too much ‘stuff’ and I’m not sure we really need the majority of what we’re probably going to get for Christmas this year.  I always donate (money, food, toys, and other gifts) to various charities at this time of the year, but I have to wonder if I’m doing enough, or doing it often enough. I’m not always sure I have my priorities straight – and it’s far too easy to get caught up in the whole commercialization aspect of this crazy time of year – as I was on Thursday.  Instead of ‘joy to the world’, I was practicing ‘shop till you drop’.

Visiting Santa 1959After my ‘encounter’ with Santa – which, by the way, made me feel like a six year old again – I slowed down, rethought where I was going and why, and ended up buying more for the charity and less for my kids (my husband and I stopped buying gifts for one another several years ago).  I even decided to cross off those last few items that they really don’t need and put the money I would have spent in the Salvation Army kettle instead. 

Christmas shouldn’t be about what you buy for who, how much you spend, or whether or not you managed to ‘pull it off’ this year (whatever that means to you) – it’s about peace, joy, goodwill, and the love of your family and friends. 

And maybe it’s even about believing in Santa Claus again, even if you’re on … the other side of 55.

I Believe In Santa Claus


NOTE:  I think Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton say it best in their song, I Believe In Santa Claus (one of my all-time favourites;  watch them performing it in an excerpt [on YouTube] from their 1984 ‘A Christmas to Remember’ TV special)

I believe in Santa Claus
I believe in Santa Claus
I believe there’s always hope when all seems lost
And I believe in Santa Claus

I believe in Santa Claus, I’ll tell you why I do
‘Cause I believe that dreams and plans and wishes can come true
I believe in miracles, I believe in magic too
Oh I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in you

I believe in family, in country and in smiles
I believe in turnin’ negatives to positives in life
I believe in lookin’ farther up the farther down we get
I believe when someone hurts us we should forgive and forget

And I believe in Santa Claus
I believe in Santa Claus
I believe love should prevail at any cost
And I believe in Santa Claus

I believe in saying what you mean and meaning what you say
I believe a better attitude can make a better way
And I believe in viewing life as a journey that we’re on
And lookin’ at our troubles as another stepping stone

And I believe that everything in life is what it’s meant to be
I believe there is a God somewhere although he’s hard to see
I believe I am so therefore I should do all that I can
To be a better piece in the puzzle of God’s plan

And I believe in Santa Claus
I believe in Santa Claus
I believe there’s always hope when all seems lost
And I believe in Santa Claus

  1. December 12, 2011 10:23 am

    I enjoy following your blog. This one especially spoke to me. I love the idea of the holidays …the happiness, the wonder, the excitement, the lights. For the past few years since my children have been off on their own, Christmas has been more about getting together with friends and family. I also wonder at the amount of ‘stuff’ we accumulate. My gal friends have been exchanging holiday goodies instead of gifts for the last five years or so. We meet for lunch and exchange our homemade treats. We have a great time laughing and get to go home with some goodies to share with family. Have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year!

    • December 12, 2011 2:25 pm

      Sounds like a great idea. A friend of mine has a ‘work group’ that exchange names each year – the only stipulation is that they have to write ‘red’ or ‘white’ on the card with their name on it; the person then buys a bottle of that kind of wine (one woman apparently doesn’t drink so she writes ‘chocolate’ on her card). What fun! Glad you enjoy the posts. Happy Holidays!


  2. December 11, 2011 5:13 pm

    Attending my husband’s choir’s Christmas concert, and the concert of a friend the night before really got the jinge bells and church bells ringing for me. Hope you get everything on your list taken care of and checked off twice. Happy Holidays!

    • December 11, 2011 5:51 pm

      I’m giving myself two more days, then I’m breaking out the Christmas CDs. Whatever isn’t bought now may or may not get purchased – but I’m okay with that. I’m just looking forward to spending time with the family over the holidays. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


  3. December 11, 2011 12:07 pm

    Its so easy to let the to-do’s of Christmas overwhelm us and make us forget the fun and festive parts of the season we’re meant to enjoy. I’ve been trying to make more time this year to stop and do things that make Christmas feel like more than a day but a season. I just went to a wonderful Christmas concert at my sister’s church last night which really got me in the spirit.

    • December 11, 2011 2:08 pm

      I miss the kids’ school Christmas concerts (now that they’re grown) and I haven’t been to one at a church in years – maybe that’s something I ‘should’ add to my list of things to do this year. Thanks.


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