The Great Holiday Pause
My dad used to say holidays are that time of the year when you get thrown together with people whom you don’t really know that well or have much in common with any more. You spend way too much time with them — sometimes long, almost endless days, jammed into a space that’s way too small — and make each other miserable! Ya-hoo! Santa Claus, right? Ha! My dad really wasn’t a humbug; he was just joking about how we sometimes “over expect” when it comes to the holidays and forget the reality of it all.
Hopefully, you’re excited about your upcoming holiday gathering. I know I am. We don’t focus much on the gifts, but we sure enjoy the time together. If you are like a lot of families, there is always one (or more) family member or family friend you would rather not see. Deep down, you’re already dreading this jerk showing up. Don’t we all have the “Uncle Harry” or “Aunt Busybody” who would rather start trouble than anything else? You might be worried that some conflict from the past will come up, or that a long-time disagreement will raise its ugly head.
Regardless of what religious meaning the holidays might hold for you, they should also be a time to say, “Let’s call a time out, take a deep breath and enjoy the day.” The holidays do not have to be the time to solve all your problems or resolve your conflicts. If it is worth talking about in December, trust me, it will still be “hot” in February, so save it until then!
I’ve always believed that rituals play an important part in creating a rhythm in a family and making the holidays more enjoyable. Around the McGraw household on Christmas Eve, when our sons, Jay and Jordan, were younger, we conducted rocking chair interviews in front of the tree. Robin and I also let the boys have their own Christmas tree in the bedroom that they could decorate any way they wanted. On Christmas morning, it is old-fashioned biscuits made from scratch and country ham. Yeah, I know, I know. We’re as country as a corncob pipe! Whether you bake certain foods together, tell stories around the fireplace or worship together, these family traditions help to create a spirit of acceptance and loving interaction in your household — a spirit that can set the tone for the rest of the year.
You know, I’m always moved by those old stories I read of soldiers from both sides of the battlefield who, on Christmas Eve, put down their guns, pause for a moment, and either sing a carol, light a candle or read some Scripture. Yes, of course, the battle resumed the next day. There was not permanent peace on earth. But the significance of that one little moment was not lost. It gave the soldiers a chance to believe in a better, different world. In the end, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?