This Christmas season was the best Christmas I have had in a long time. For many of the past years, Christmas was a time of stress, trying to hang on to any Christmas cheer I could find, and frustration or disappointment. Frustration and disappointment was a common theme because of expectations that I had for the holiday and expectations that I put on others and myself. And when those expectations weren't met, frustration or disappointment were sure to follow.
Another part of what made past Christmases lacking was my own perspective on the day. Coming from a background of growing up quite religious and now being not religious, I was thrown off kilter about how to even celebrate Christmas. I realized that I had been celebrating Christmas in years past in the mold set out before me by my religion and religious community. Now suddenly I was faced with figuring out how I wanted to celebrate the holiday. As happy as I am to be free from the box of religion, I was a bit lost when it came to really thinking for myself. It was a lot easier to just follow.
This year was different though. Part of the reason was because I made strides this past year in figuring out life without the pre-made template that religion provides. I have grown more comfortable with thinking for myself. This Christmas was different too because I think I tapped into what Christmas really means to me. Love. Spending the month leading up to Christmas doing the Kindness Advent Calendar kept me focused on looking for ways to show love to others and to myself through acts of kindness. Keeping the focus on kindness all month long kept the stress at bay because I wasn't focused on trying to do the holiday perfectly. I also wasn't focused on expectations for the holiday, of others, or of myself. By focusing on kindness, I was able to keep the focus on love. Even if there was a day when everything wasn't going well, the next day as I looked at the kindness prompt for the day, that would refocus my mind on kindness and love.
I'm sure there are many religious people who would say that their religion keeps them focused on love. I'm glad that works for them. For me, religion was a set of rules and expectations that actually distracted from the simple point of Christmas. I was too busy trying to "do it right" that I lost the whole point of the holiday. When you take away all the traditions, take away all the dogma, take away all the expectations, you realize that Christmas really is about love.
This year I started a new tradition that I hope will keep me focused on the reason for the holiday in the years to come. I plan on spending the days leading up to Christmas every December doing acts of kindness every day. And through focusing on kindness every day instead of all the other distractions, I hope to keep focused on the point of Christmas every year - love.