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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding the Spirit of Christmas

Is it me, or has the Christmas season lost its luster?

There seem to be fewer houses with outside lights and decorations, fewer Christmas cards in the mail, and less holiday music on the radio. Of course, the newspapers and television channels continue to bombard us with 'perfect gift' ads and commercials, but the whole spirit of happiness, joy and sharing seems to be waning. And really, how many people are going to buy a new Lexus for their spouse as a Christmas gift?

I have done a half-hearted job of setting out our Christmas decorations, but the lights remain in the box and we are still undecided about whether to put up our artificial tree. It hardly seems worth the effort this year. My holiday baking was a bust, thanks to new cookie sheets that burned many of the cookies and destroyed my desire to bake. I am, however, enjoying my annual tradition of listening to each of my 40+ CDs of Christmas music. I also take my little iPod along that contains nothing but Christmas music when I exercise.

I'm doing my best to get into the holiday spirit. A friend and I recently joined a group of people volunteering at the state's largest food bank, in Albuquerque. We spent two back-breaking hours taking donated canned goods from huge bins, carrying them in crates and then depositing them on the appropriate shelf for boxing. The urge to bake, despite the earlier catastrophe, is creeping over me once again, and I couldn't resist the temptation to make fudge, most of which I will give away to appreciative friends. My daughter and I attended the annual holiday stroll and Christmas tree lighting in Old Town Albuquerque. Despite all these efforts, however, the Christmas spirit remains elusive in our home.

Christmas isn't about finding "the perfect gift." It isn't about buying gifts for people we barely know. It isn't about spending tons of money and racking up huge credit card bills. It's a religious holiday, first and foremost. And it's about spending time with family and friends, about remembering to be grateful for our blessings and sharing with those less fortunate. That is the true spirit of Christmas. At my age, and at this stage of my life, there is nothing I need, and few things that I want. My daughter, who is preparing to get her first apartment in a few months, asked for money for Christmas, which she will apply toward a deposit on her apartment. So even if we put our tree up this year, there will be only a few gifts beneath it.

Spending time together, donating some food and toys for the needy, and being mindful of our blessings -- these things, not the number of packages under a tree, represent the true spirit of Christmas.