originally published Tuesday, December 25, 2007

holiday blues… and reds… and greens…

mjf-lightartMara Jevera Fulmer, Light Art, 2007


Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. I especially love the time we spend together, when we laugh and cry and share. Now that my children are nearly grown, the days are all but over when we fill a room full of little inexpensive gifts (and some not so inexpensive) and an overflowing floor of torn up wrapping paper and crushed bows.

For the last five years I’ve spent several hours on Christmas day around lunchtime to help out at the local soup kitchen. I take pictures of the kids as they sit next to Santa and hand them back a Polaroidtm for them to take home. I’ve become addicted to it. Not because I feel guilty about the abundance that my family has been blessed with, and not out of some sort of overwhelming feeling of need to give back to the community. 

No, I go because I need to. I need to see the faces of the children when I snap their photo with Santa Claus, some with a broad smile on their face, and others with barely a glimmer of happiness. Their eyes reflect a sadness born of a hard life, too much sadness for their very short lives. I go because I need to be reminded that not everyone sees the world through the rose-colored glasses that sit upon the bridge of my nose. And I need to give them a glimpse of that rose-colored view when I hand them the little snapshot of them, sitting next to Santa, as they clutch the photo along with their carefully selected toy before heading back out to the grey skies of a cold winter’s day again.

I’m not trying to be a bummer this Christmas. And I don’t think I’m suffering from any sort of “seasonal affectiveness disorder.” No, I’m not depressed. And I don’t believe I’ve overspent this year on Christmas, trying to generally live within our means. My now “adult” children have expressed their understanding and cooperation. Both understand the great expenses involved with their pursuits and our efforts to support them. They understand the blessings they have. They’ve seen poverty up close, both here and abroad. But overseas,the poverty they witnessed generally did not feel “sad” or “impoverished.” What we saw in people who lacked financial riches, was made up for in the riches of their family connections. This is what we understood as a wealth that money could not buy.

And this brings me to my next point about the holidays… Why should it require the holidays to be happy? In some ways, the holidays just make things seem so much sadder. For it emphasizes the contrast between what some people have, and others do not. 

Why couldn’t we just skip the holidays, and the demoralization of not being able to afford to fill the room with gifts and sparkling lights? Why couldn’t we skip the overextension of debt just so we can fulfill some overly commercialized vision of gifts from Santa? Or worse… completely invert the gifts of three wise men at the birth of a magically gifted child?

Why can’t we just skip it all? And therefore, celebrate the gifts of living, day by day, large and small… one day at a time… every day of the year? Maybe then, we could begin to heal and learn to find that the small gifts of life cannot be measured in the dollars spent, or the material goods that gather dust around us… 

Maybe then, we could learn to love each other every day. And not just at Christmas. Maybe then we can find peace in our lives together.

May peace be with you… at the holidays… and always…

~ Mara Jevera Fulmer


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