How to Have Meaningful Holidays
How to Enrich your Holidays
Christmas Day is past now and the twelve-day countdown of the Christmas season is well into day Three, December 28, as I write this. So this seems like the perfect time to reflect a bit on how to reflect, that is, asking the question: ‘How do we make special days and seasons meaningful?’
On the right, we have Fox News and ultra-conservatives insisting there’s a “war on Christmas,” yet I’ve heard no one speak out against Christmas or Jesus, either publically or privately. And as for that ‘horrid’ phrase “Happy Holidays,” maybe those who use it deserve a little slack for being considerate of religious beliefs that connect more to Islam and the Jewish tradition, as well as persons who are undecided about what and Whom to worship, or simply wish their allegiance to remain open-minded.
Holidays with an historical religious basis, like Christmas, summon us to a deeper consideration of life -- its meaning and purpose. That kind of insight can be found in any number of ways: worshipping in churches, mosques, and synagogues; meditating; praying; conversing with others and so on.
But, after years of rejecting the use of routine devotional materials provided by most churches as being too ‘fluffy’ and superficial (in our opinion), my wife and I have developed a tradition that works well for us. Perhaps you might find it useful as well.
Each Advent and Christmas season (7 weeks) and each Lenten season (6 weeks) we select a book of real substance, and then take turns after breakfast or dinner reading sections of it aloud to each other.
This Advent and Christmas our selection is a book by the thinker-counselor Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.
Our selection this Advent-Christmas season
Our process for reading
Tolle says some of the same things we learned already during our counseling training and via other sources, but he uses words and images that are new to us and quite unique, all of which get us thinking.
In practice, we read about 5-6 pages each day and stop anytime one of us has a thought or comment to share. Then we decide how what we’ve read applies to our personal lives and brainstorm aloud after that, seeking ways to implement those insights as we move forward.
Our 'golden' rule
The one rule we hold to is this: stay away from books that prescribe what we ought to think or believe or feel. That excludes much of what comes from traditional sources, of course, but we’ve found that to be a freeing and liberating thing. We want to explore Truth from all aspects, without being hemmed in from the start by someone else telling us what we ‘ought’ to know and accept.
Over the years, our reading list has included works by the Dalai Lama, Dag Hammarskjold, Bishops Tutu and Spong, Matthew Fox, Karen Armstrong, Jean Shinoda Bolen, and a raft of other poets, philosophers and scholars.
Last year we spent time with one of our most favorite sources, Thou Art That, a small collection of essays by Joseph Campbell on the multi-faceted views of traditional Christian biblical stories as seen through the eyes of various traditions.
An open-ended process
Each meditative season we discover a new work, or re-read a familiar one from years past, and each time we discover something new and meaningful in them that helps us grow and expand as persons. And if a book is too lengthy or complex to get through in six or seven weeks, well then, we just extend the time frame beyond that particular season and keep right on going.
We’d recommend this practice of reading sources out loud and discussing them to anyone who wants a different, more significant approach to the holiday seasons each year. If you are hungry and thirsty for new ways to deepen your insight and new modes of reflection, try this one. You might like it!