Spirit Matters: Refocusing the lens on Christmas

It is Black Friday 2021, which can only mean one thing in my house.

I am curled up on the couch, under one or more thick, fuzzy blankets.

Taking a nap, reading a book, or quietly meditating — after I submit this week’s column to the editor.

In other words, still recovering from yesterday’s Big Meal.

And later on, God willing, finally decorating my two trees that have been setting in the family room and living room for the last two weeks, patiently waiting for someone to dress them up, so to speak.

While some spend this day jump starting their Christmas shopping, I spend this day with a genuine intention of my own.

Kicking off the “official” start of the Christmas season by, well, basking in the Spirit of Christmas.

Before I continue, I should note that, personally, I don’t adhere to the whole “official” start of Christmas thing, in terms of it having to start AFTER the remnants of the annual Thanksgiving dinner are put away. I grew up in a household that highly valued the Spirit of Christmas, meaning ... the WARM FEELING that accompanies everything Christmas. All these years later, that warm feeling is as nostalgically fresh as ever, despite my dad passing away on Dec. 22 eight years ago. My dad was the biggest kid of all in our house at Christmas, so this holiday season runs strong in my blood.

In short, the Spirit of Christmas is comforting for me. So, I believe if people (many times adult-people) want to start posting countdowns to Christmas or watching Hallmark Christmas movies (or “Elf”) or buying or making Christmas decorations in June or July, so be it. To me, they still possess that childlike wonder Christmas is all about. And the expression of that childlike wonder should never be dictated by “appropriate” times. In fact, I propose childlike Christmas wonder is a healing balm given the national and worldwide events of the last several years.

It is not escapism. It is self-care.

I also understand and respect for whatever reason many do not remember their childhood Christmases with warmth and wonder. These folks should equally be able to express their love or disdain for Christmas in appropriate ways whenever they feel it, without having to apologize or make excuses for it.

OK, meandering side essay over.

Ahem.

To me, the Spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with checking off a list of names in a harried rush to finish buying the “perfect” gift for friends and family members.

(I’ll tell you a secret. There is no perfect gift. At least not materially speaking.)

I bought into that whole shopping craze in my early adulthood.

Newly on my own, and living in Bloomington-Normal, I was excited about exercising my independence and expressing the “grown up” me, by purpose-fully choosing gifts for everyone on my list.

I must admit, it did give me a sense of satisfaction each time I found a thought-full gift for each person on my list.

And I loved the newness of carefully wrapping each of the gifts and placing them under my Christmas tree, which I had proudly decorated with handmade sachets.

But the annual pattern of checking off a shopping list soon got old, not to mention expensive, especially since I hate crowded stores and malls, no matter what time of the year it happens to be. That one-day shopping spree I did each year (usually on a weekday) ended up making me frustrated, angry and miserable.

Not exactly what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.

Within a few years, I transitioned from purchasing store-bought gifts for everyone, to giving meaningful, handmade gifts — from the heart — to those on my Christmas list.

And most of the time, they all loved my new approach.

You can say much more with one, small handmade gift for the soul, than you can with spending $50 or $100 or more on a material item that might or might not still be in use by the next Christmas.

In other words, think of the meaning behind “The Little Drummer Boy,” when choosing how to express your Christmas goodwill to those in your life this year. (And while you are at it, check out Bob Seger’s version of this Christmas classic. One of my all-time favorites.)

Finally, Christmas shopping and all the other related activities aside, why not carve out a bit of time this holiday season to intentionally reflect on your Christmases past.

Spend an afternoon listening to your favorite Christmas carols, maybe even writing down some of your long-ago memories, while sitting in front of the tree and drinking a cup of hot cocoa.

Stir up a little of that Spirit of Christmas in your own heart, and within your own home.

Because in the end, it is not the gifts that last a lifetime.

It is the memories.

· SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.