Up Front and Personal

For Some, the Season Isn’t So Merry

by Veronica Szczygiel

If you turn on the television, you’ll be inundated with advertisements that tell us it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” and “the happiest season of all.”

That should be true. But let’s face it: Christmas can be, for many of us, a time of stress and sadness. In order to fully embrace the real joy at the heart of Christmas, we must try to conquer our holiday blues.

The holiday blues can come from stress, most likely from the need to find the perfect gift for everyone. But there are ways in which you can make shopping less stressful. It can be a family outing, so that you are choosing gifts together. Limit yourself to a budget, and explain this budget to your children, for they should learn the importance of self-restraint. Focus on one gift for each person rather than many; the simpler and more thoughtful the gift, the more it will be appreciated.

Or, try something truly radical: Make each other gifts, or buy tickets to a Broadway show or a museum exhibit for the whole family. That way, you are not buying memories but making them.

From the Heart, Not the Wallet

Shopping should not be the end-all, be-all of the Christmas season. Jesus said, “You cannot be a slave of two masters…You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Our gift-giving should always stem from the heart, not from our wallets. Although giving is fun, we must not let it be the highlight of our Christmas.

In fact, the highlight is being with family and friends. However, this is where holiday blues can also sneak up on us. Blues can come from having to celebrate Christmas for the first time without a special loved one. No matter the circumstances surrounding loss, the first Christmas without a loved one is usually the hardest. There is no sure-fire way to combat these feelings, but here are a few ways that might ease the pain.

One way to fight grief is to give yourself to others, especially in the form of volunteering. Connecting with others who have experienced loss helps us find kindred spirits and put our own lives in perspective. You can also engage in an activity you used to do with your loved one. I often make leek salad, not because it’s my favorite dish, but because my grandmother used to make it. Somehow I feel closer to her when I recreate it.

Most of all, talk to others – your family, your friends, your priest, your neighbors. They will help ease the pain by listening and offering you comfort. Often, you will feel the spirit of the person who has passed in your interactions with others. You will feel the spirit of Christ as you speak of your loved ones, both living and living in heaven.

I wish you all a happy Christmas. May the peace of Christ comfort you, and may the light of His birth chase away the darkness of any holiday blues.[hr] Veronica Szczygiel, a member of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus parish, Greenpoint, teaches religion at Marymount Middle School, Manhattan.