Like war, the holiday season brings out both the best and the worst in people. The best can be seen all over the place — in the smiles of kids, carolers spreading holiday cheer through song, secret Santas going around to stores and anonymously paying off people’s lay-away accounts. The worst can also be seen all over the place — depression, heightened by a cruel and almost hysterical emphasis on having to be happy on one particular day of the year, the stress of having to run around like a lunatic on an ether binge to get everything done on time, the every-shopper-for-themselves incidents seen on Black Friday and, reports indicate, this weekend at the Toys for Tots giveaway.
Is the good worth putting up with the bad? Of course it is, and it’s not like you can stop the holidays anyway. If you tried, the whole world economy would fly apart, and we would all end up having a not-so-merry time on the already-overcrowded unemployment line. So drink your nog and like it.
It’s a big world out there with a lot of different points of view. This is why I persist in saying, “Have a nice holiday” to people instead of “Merry Christmas.” Yes, I know that Dec. 25 is Christmas, but Dec. 20-28 is also Hanukkah, and you know what? You don’t know what religion the other person you’re wishing a happy-whatever practices or does not, so get a grip and be considerate of other people’s feelings. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your faith, but that pride need not be expressed at the expense of respecting someone else’s faith.
What am I going to do this holiday? Go spend it with the people I love, both family and friends, try to unwind and take stock of all the things, good and bad, that’s happened in my life since the last holiday. As I am not in charge of anything, really, other than showing up to where I’m expected to be, I’m hopeful for a happy and peaceful last week of the year.
For which, I realize, I am tremendously lucky and enormously blessed. Week after week in this newspaper, we run stories about victims and criminals, heroes and villains, people who struggle with problems and overcome them to bask in triumph and people who get sucked under, beat up and can’t get a break. It’s all here in Kingston — there’ll be heaping comfort and joy for some, but doubtless there’ll be others whose holiday is having the crap beat out of them or feeling like hell because they think they don’t measure up or dying a little bit in despair over past loss and a dim future.
Both Christmas and Hanukkah are about hope and miracles. It’s a mistake, though, to confine hope and miracles to just one day, eight nights, two weeks or the span between the day after Thanksgiving and the first day of the new year. People, including yourselves, dear readers, need love, hope and help every day, not just one day. Maybe 2012 will be the last year ever, or maybe it will be just the year that precedes 2013. When this time rolls around 12 months from now, let’s hope there was less anger and more joy.