“Appreciation of nature fans the spark that ignites the flame of your spirit.”
Note from the author:
Christmas spirit really describes the appreciation for whatever holiday your family observes. Be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or nothing at all, the goal is to remember and rekindle the childlike enthusiasm in us all.
It is no secret that this year has been challenging. That’s putting it mildly. The numbers of those who have suffered devastating loss—health or financial security—is staggering. Many more are plain tired. Tired of the fear (real or hyped), tired of the precautions needed to function in this time of COVID, and what it really means to be apart from family and friends. For many of us, heading into the Christmas holiday, we feel a lag in our spirit. You may be wondering how you can possibly have a merry Christmas this year. Well, I’m here to say that despite everything going on right now, the spirit is still there, tired—possibly more tired than it’s ever been—but ready to be ignited. The spirit is hungry and waiting to be fed, especially at this time of feel-good famine.
Finding your Christmas spirit is doable for every single person, young or old. You see, Christmas spirit comes from within. Despite copious commercialism, it isn’t about piles of presents under a lavishly decorated tree or exciting getaways to exotic locales. Christmas spirit is the deep-down feeling of peace and tranquility—even excitement and wonder—you derive from experiencing ordinary things. There comes a moment when suddenly, you feel awakened, softened, special somehow, and blessed. These moments of wonder are easier to find than you might expect.
Nature stirs the spirit in beautiful ways and luckily, our mountain towns are full of breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Bundle up and take a walk. Breathe in the brisk, fresh air and look around at the world in winter’s slumber. You don’t even have to go outside to be amazed by the beautiful scenery. Have you ever been busy gathering keys and coat to leave and suddenly been caught off guard by a patch of sun on the floor? The color of the light filtered through the trees draws your attention, and amidst the hustle, you find you’ve paused to gaze out the window. You might see snow falling off a pine bough, letting loose a fine mist in the air. You might spy a deer walking serenely, head down, looking for grass to nibble. Regardless of how ordinary these things are in your daily life, be deliberate in stopping to appreciate how wondrous these things truly are. And teach your children to do the same. If you want more opportunities to enjoy nature, consider putting out suet for the birds, or dried corn for the squirrels in places easily viewed from the windows. Appreciation of nature fans the spark that ignites the flame of your spirit.
As far as Christmas giving goes, be creative about experience versus expense. Even if your finances remain unaltered, your spirit might need a lift, especially since shopping trips are greatly altered. How about participating in a baking or cooking experience with friends or family via Facetime or Zoom? This might be the year to get some one-on-one instruction on finessing that treasured family recipe. You may not be in the same room, but the wine, music and laughter can still flow, and it is a tremendous compliment to be asked to share. If you’re not keen on creating something in the kitchen, try making peanut butter birdseed feeders together, or a craft involving ornaments for the tree. Spend five minutes on Pinterest and you’ll be armed with more ideas than you know what to do with. And all are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Create a new tradition that challenges everyone on your list. Why not make rules for giving that require gifts to be used? A book exchange, for instance, where you share a book you loved reading—take it right off your shelf, write a tribute on the title page and wrap it up. Everyone will be doing the same and it would be fun picking just the right literary treasure. This would work for exchanging vinyl records too. If you’re into baking, prepare a personal specialty, complete with the recipe. These simple experiences of thinking of others can feed the spirit, stir the mind and please the palette.
If you belong to a church or community group, ask how you can help. Giving your time and energy to those in need is a sure-fire way to elevate your spirit. There are many volunteer experiences out there and so many in need. If you simply want to support others, consider this win/win experience: purchase gifts from local small businesses, artists, authors or second-hand stores that support charities you believe in. And utilize the take-out option from our local restaurants.
Do not skip decorating for Christmas. Even if you don’t have children living at home or have no plans to share your space this season, do it for you—to feed your Christmas spirit. Decorate the tree with fervor—make an event out of it and then bask in its glow. Take out those holiday treasures and place them prominently where you can enjoy them. Go further than usual by adding Christmas touches to other parts of the house—the bedrooms, the bathrooms—leave no space untouched by Christmassy happiness. Sip from your favorite Santa cocoa mug, wear those goofy fuzzy Christmas socks, and indulge in every Christmas movie and animated show you can find. Fill the house with the music of the season and sing along, loud and proud. Spend an afternoon decorating sugar cookies or a gingerbread house. You might be surprised by how uplifting it is to surround yourself with seasonal joy.
Whether feeding your Christmas spirit comes from nature, religion, helping others, choosing experiences (even remotely) with friends or family, or making merry just for your own enjoyment, make the effort. Remember, you only have so many Christmases in this life. Act on the belief that you are worth the effort of the best Christmas you can muster. Experience the season with joy, even if joy feels elusive. Do whatever you can to rejoice in the season—do it for your hungry spirit and everyone around you will benefit.