Where is Christmas? Finding meaning buried in holiday glitz
A split bean. A shoebox. Dr. Suess. Strange as it may sound, these words are what come to mind when I think of the holiday season.
As a child, the spirit of the season truly began when my dad pulled out the most coveted VHS tape of them all. This was no ordinary tape that you could carelessly leave on the floor or accidently record over with the latest Full House episode. This was the Holy Grail of film collections – our favorite cartoons’ one-hour Christmas specials. The one where Alvin the chipmunk plays his Golden Echo harmonica at Carnegie Hall? Got it. The nail-biting episode where the Smurfs stop Gargamel’s evil plot to steal the Christmas spirit? Seen it a thousand times.
But my favorite had to be Disney’s A Christmas Carol here Mickey Mouse plays Bob Cratchit and his son, Tiny Tim, is the most lovable mouse ever captured on film. The part that made my heart ache was when they sat down to their humble Christmas Eve dinner and though his plate had a few scraps of food on it, he splits a tiny kidney bean in half and offers it to his father. As a child, this simple message spoke volumes to me about true holiday spirit.
How fun it is to browse the shops, glittering with lights and bustling with holiday shoppers. The holiday season is filled with sensory experiences from basking in the beauty of the Plaza lights illuminating the city sky to catching a snowflake on your tongue. From the powerful scent of pine from a Christmas tree to a choir singing “Joy to the World,” this is one time of the year when souls can find signs of the season nearly everywhere they look and every place they venture.
But what is it that makes this season the most wonderful time of the year? Surely it can’t be the free shipping, the endless stream of commercials (which to my great annoyance started right after Halloween) and the battles at the stores where people fight each other to get their hands on the latest gadget? I found myself writing a list in June of things I felt completely necessary to ask for this Christmas. I browsed the Web, my eyes delighting at pages and pages of shoes, clothes and accessories. I justified it all, saying how much I would need this new stuff since it was Christmas and it was only once a year. I logged off, feeling exhilarated and buzzed with excitement. The memory of Tiny Tim was fading fast, growing tiny indeed.
As a new mom, I’ve also been thinking of how to teach my daughter about the holidays someday. I’ve imagined her running down the stairs in fluffy pajamas, flushed with excitement as she looks under the tree to see her presents. I’ve thought of her asking us about Santa, about how he gets to all those houses in one night. I’ve also hoped I could get her excited about a shoebox, a very special shoebox that I recently discovered does not contain any shoes.
Though there are some things I would love to have this year, I’ve had a chance to remember what the season really means. There are millions of people around the world who don’t want stylish shoes, fashionable clothes or the latest accessories. They want food, shelter, water, and their basic needs fulfilled. How silly of me to spend so much time and energy scribbling a list of meaningless stuff. One organization I found is sending shoeboxes filled with hygiene items, school supplies and small toys to children in Third World countries. Another is collecting grocery store gift cards, bedding and winter clothes to give to local families in need. A new pair of shoes would look great on my feet, but a new coat for somebody who needs one to last through the winter would be much greater, for me and them.
I’m on a journey back to a time much simpler, to a place more fulfilling, to Tiny Tim and his bean. This season, take it all in. Hug your family, hold them close and wish them the merriest holiday. Order a peppermint mocha for you and the person in line behind you. Invite a friend to church. Share love, for it’s the only true currency we have.
Perhaps Dr. Suess’ The Grinch says it best when he wonders … “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more.”