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The Real Meaning of the Holidays

No matter what you believe, you can still find significance in the holiday season.

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Meditation Advisor

We’re firmly in the holiday season, and it’s safe to say people have mixed feelings about it. Though this time of year is especially festive, it can also bring up stress, conflict, and financial struggles for many people. Whether it’s apprehension of tense family gatherings or anxiety over not purchasing the right presents, it’s not uncommon to feel a sense of burden when contemplating the holidays and what they signify.

With a slight shift in perspective, however, you can change your outlook about what this season really means. Here, find three ways you can reframe your viewpoint to enhance your enjoyment.

1. Spirituality

At its core, the holiday season is about rejuvenation. For those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, it’s quite obvious that this is a spiritual time of year. For those who are part of the Christian faith, this is an important moment to look back at the birth of Jesus, his teachings, and his blessings, and at the same time, reconnect to your spirit. Taking the weeks leading up to the holiday to go inward and put things in perspective is one of the best ways you can mentally and spiritually recharge.

Even if you don’t celebrate the holidays from a religious standpoint, taking this time to appreciate the compassion, empathy, and love that is part of your life is a great way to enter the coming year feeling refreshed. If the holidays are typically a stressful time for you, focusing on these aspects more than anything can, in fact, modify how you feel about the holidays in general. With all the joy and merriment around—twinkling lights, end-of-year gatherings, time off from work—it’s an ideal opportunity to take stock and express gratitude for all the good things you have going on.

Related: The Power of Gratitude


2. Abundance

The holiday season is also the perfect time to appreciate the abundance you have been given in whatever form it may take for you: food, gifts, family, good health and/or fortune, etc. Though it’s common to hear the criticism that the holidays have become too materialistic, I’d argue that the economic stimulus provided by celebrating and purchasing gifts is good, not bad. With careful consideration, you can avoid falling into the trap of materialism and still give presents to those you care about.

Presents become materialistic when you’re giving them out of routine, obligation, or without having the spirit of love in your generosity. This is crucial to understand because, in the end, gift-giving is an exchange of energy between people. Without love and thoughtfulness, gift-giving becomes burdensome.

What I’m saying is that you should absolutely give gifts during the holiday season, but do it from the heart, with the best intentions, thinking more about what the gifts say about the people receiving them than how they reflect on you. Ask yourself: What’s your intention? What’s the emotion going into this gift? These questions will help you choose gifts that are truly valuable.

3. Connection

Above all, the holidays are a time to connect. If you look at this season from a place of obligation—that it will take up so much time, be so expensive, and be so stressful—you won’t be able to enjoy it. Instead of honing in on these negatives, take a look at the positives. You have a family, and spending time with them can be more of an opportunity than a burden. You have the chance to give gifts to the people you care about; that is a wonderful chance to show your gratitude. This shift in your understanding can add joy to your holidays, so that you can take on the whole season in a fresh, appreciative way.

It’s also worth noting that the holiday season is not only celebrated in North America, but also around the globe, even in the countries and places where Christianity is not a major religion. For example, in India, most of the population is not Christian, yet most Hindu households have some visible evidence of Christmas celebration. If you go to India in mid-to-late December, you will find lots of Hindus saying “Merry Christmas” to each other and celebrating the holiday as a reason to get together, bond, and be joyful.

This speaks volumes about the power of the holidays to bring people together. When you start to think about the holidays as a time to feel uplifted and something to look forward to, you’ll find so much more joy in celebrating them, regardless of what you believe.



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