Winter awaits us with its first blast of cold. Sometimes angry and harsh, hitting fast and hard.  Sometimes it steps softly, quietly and lays its soft white blanket of snow over cities like a loving mother covering her child.

Winter is football, skiing, cinema, turkey, Christmas, New Year… . Alternately Summer has its perks too. The in-between seasons are like a waiting room for the main game. So just as there are the seasons  each of us experience seasons in our lives.

There is ‘a time to be born’—this is the Spring of our lives when we are young and needful of teaching. Our parents teach us in ways that build our character. We usually learn from our parents their moral ethics and codes. Our teachers at school also form our character by building upon our abilities in different subjects throughout our years in school. The more we study, the more we learn in which ability we are stronger.
 
Then there is ‘a time to plant’—this is the Summer of our lives when we go about using what we have learnt in the Spring of our lives. We get out of school, we get a job in which we can demonstrate our talents. We may even get married and raise a family. The Summer of life is often the best time of our lives when we accumulate lasting life experiences.

Harvest times comes in the autumn of life. We draw on the resources we have ‘planted’ earlier in life. It’s like we are harvesting the vegetables from our garden which were planted for ‘another day’. Now it is time to pluck them up and put them to good use.

Lastly, there is ‘a time to die’. The Winter of our life is old age. To each of us there comes a time when material things no longer matter. Just look at the elderly in nursing homes, everything they own fits into one room.

So what about Christmas? Is it really "the season to be jolly"? In reality there is nothing like this festive season to force you to face the fact that life isn't always as joyful and triumphant as we're lead to believe.  For singles Christmas and New Year can be a very isolating time. But even if you're surrounded by family and friends, this time of year can bring more than its fair share of stress, noise, anxiety and squabbles.  Not to mention the money troubles most people have.

The Christmas period is not necessarily "the most wonderful time of the year" for everyone. It can be a sad and depressing time for many. Many experience the holidays hard because of the absence of a loved one. Something which is always harder to deal with at this time of the year.

For many there is the financial burden they face. Many a parent will not have the means to buy gifts for their children this year. In many a home the tree will have little under it because of the financial hardships being experienced. Whereas many complain about the crowds at the mall, many wish they had the means to go to the mall.

Maybe the biggest cause of this depression at this time of year are expectations. Expectations we have for what we should feel and believe. Expectations others have of what we should feel and believe. Expectations that may or may not be realistic, expectations that we put on ourselves and others, expectations that our culture puts upon us. We all would like to be with people we care for and love this time of year. We would like to feel happy and jolly and share our feelings with others. We would like to have a holiday that captures the best of the season and leaves out those things that cause us stress, loneliness and sadness. And don`t forget the cooking, all the shopping, visiting all of the relatives, sending all the cards out, and still trying to find time for ourselves as well. We think we can make everyone happy with the perfect gift, or we think that this year things will be different around the family dinner table when the alcohol starts flowing and the hurts and pain from holidays past start being remembered. We plan on re-creating the holiday traditions that we best remember and love, even though the people in our life do not want any part of them and have reminded us of this year after year.

So what to do? Try to find a meaning for this time, something you can look back on in years to come. Celebrate that meaning with carols, films, hiking, good quality time with friends or family, spiritually ( whether you be Christian, Jewish, Pagan, Humanist…). This time of year does offer everyone a chance to discover some kind of way to connect more deeply to that which is greater than. Avoid those expectations by not doing what you don`t want to do. If you don't you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. But also let others make their own list of priorities and let them do what they want to do. Acknowledge and feel your feelings. Don't cover up your sadness, your loneliness, your emptiness with alcohol, food, or overdoing. Admit to yourself, and if possible to someone else, that you are not feeling happy and jolly. Depression, sadness, and loneliness are as natural and normal as happiness, excitement, and joy. Own up to all of them, and remember that you are not alone. Try to live in the here and now. I love to remember the good old days when I was a boy, or when we baked cookies. Our memories are part of what makes this time of year special, but they also can rob us of the memories we make today when we get stuck in comparing today with yesterday. Cherish the past, live for today. Laugh. Do it with other people. Isolation and gloominess are two of the most common symptoms of depression. When the avalanche of expectations and stress start piling up, remember that what gets Santa through the season is that he laughs a lot. Watch funny movies. Be silly. Have fun. Remember that laughing is more fun when we do it with others. Even for introverts.

 

 

All these points may not solve or heal the hurts we suffer but they might help you create a new holiday tradition worth repeating, the tradition of finding joy and meaning in the midst of stress and unrealistic expectations.

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An excellent reminder of all the facets of this time of year. Thank you Fr.Jon!<br /><br />Personally, this time of year is always tinged with sadness since it was around this time that Dad dies of cancer and also, many years before, when Mum...

An excellent reminder of all the facets of this time of year. Thank you Fr.Jon!<br /><br />Personally, this time of year is always tinged with sadness since it was around this time that Dad dies of cancer and also, many years before, when Mum lost her first husband and Dad lost his common-law partner in the same car crash (they were all friends, out on a day trip with my Dad's 8-year old niece when an elderly driver lost control of his car and ploughed into them) but if that tragedy had not occured, my parents would not have found solace in each other and I would not be here today!<br /><br />The point of this is to illustrate that even in the depths of Winter when all seems barren and lifeless, there exists a spark of life to come. Just as in the taijin symbol, at the greatest point of Yin or Yang there lies the seed of the other and this is the cycle of life and the Force.<br /><br />We are all here as a community to support each other and this season traditionally draws tribes closer together and reminding us of the support and love of family and friends. We are no different and I for one (and I'm sure there are several of us who feel this way) will try to be online as much as possible over the festive season in case anyone just needs to get away from the stress or even just feels the need to connect to others.<br /><br />May the Force (in all its seasonal glory) be with you all.

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