“Tis the season to be jolly …”
According to internet sources, “the phrase has its origins in an 1862 Christmas carol, ‘Deck the Halls [with Boughs of Holly].’ The song dates back to the sixteenth century. It wasn’t always associated with Christmas: the melody comes from a Welsh winter song called ‘Nos Galan,’ which is actually about New Year’s Eve.”
‘Tis the season … is a phase heard during the winter drawing attention to what’s known as the ‘Holiday Season’”
I celebrate Christmas the entire month of December. I decorate my Christmas tree by Thanksgiving and start collecting gifts for my family and friends. My favorite shopping experience is for children, especially when filling a wish-list for children I do not know. I relish dressing up and joining my friends at holiday gatherings. I spend Christmas Eve with my best friend from high school, Terri, and her extended family, and Christmas Day with my brother and sister-in-law, Jack and LaVerne, and their extended family. ‘Tis the season ….
If I were to stop writing right now, I would have succeeded in telling a story that I tell every year when asked: “Sara, how will you spend the holidays?” The story is true, but incomplete. What is missing are my true feelings associated with Christmas. No matter how wonderful Terri, Jack, LaVerne, their extended families, and many other friends are to me, I always experience sadness at Christmas. Not only do I miss my parents who have been gone for decades, but I also feel the absence of an immediate family—husband, children, and probably now grandchildren. I rarely share this because I do not want anyone thinking I feel sorry for myself. All of us have lost loved ones and many of us have pondered the “what ifs” of life. ‘Tis the season….
I share this glimpse of my reality as a way to acknowledge the challenges of this particular holiday season. Trying circumstances that separate loved ones during the holidays are always present, but they are especially prevalent this year. I am always moved by our men and women serving in the military who are deployed during the holidays. This year, I am especially mindful of grandparents who will not spend the holiday season with their children and grandchildren for fear of not seeing another holiday season and those overburdened caregivers who must forego any celebration. ‘Tis the season….
Is “‘Tis the season to be jolly” really this year’s refrain? Or is “‘Tis the season to be joyful…” a better verse. As many people face more and more challenges, including contacting COVID and, even sadder, losing a loved one to COVID, it is reassuring to focus on gratitude and hope. It is easy to feel discontent in response to the overproduced, unrealistic, and commercialized images of holiday bliss. But joy doesn’t depend on the ideal. The revered poet Kalil Gibran offers perspective: “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.” We do well to embrace the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast: It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
Let’s be grateful for our blessings and hopeful that 2021 will bring an end to this pandemic and the divisions that bedevil us. I am so looking forward to a return to an even better “normal” and opportunities to gather in much more meaningful ways in years to come.
‘Tis the season to be joyful, thankful, and hopeful.
Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season,