Don’t let change take ‘merry’ out of Christmas

By Helena Rodriguez: local columnist

When you come from a family as huge as mine, you start to feel lonely as fewer and fewer people come home for Christmas each year. And when you start to compare the stress-filled holidays of your adulthood to the carefree ones of your childhood, Christmas can lose that “magical touch.”

As an adult, I’ve learned the hard way that the only thing constant in life is change. I’ve had a hard time the past few Christmases dealing with that change, but this year I’m determined to recapture that “Christmas magic,” even if it means I have to become a child all over again.

How I’ve wasted the past few Christmases focusing on that undeniable void in my family. My family, particularly on my mom’s side, has grown over the years and branched out into its own little clans. I’m seeing fewer and fewer tios and tias every Christmas and I only have one surviving grandparent, my Grandma Chaya. Then in my immediate clan, factors such as divorce have entered the picture. These are perfect combinations for a severe case of holiday depression.

Now depression during the holidays is a heavy topic to talk about on Christmas eve I know, but please bear with me. This isn’t really meant to be a somber column, but rather it’s about putting the “merry” back into your Christmas.

First, let me point out a few dismal facts that cannot be avoided. I do this with the hope that maybe I can help you avoid these traps that have contributed to the scrooginess of my Christmases past.

The truth is many people commit suicide during the holidays. I’ve read several stories lately about the holidays being the most stressful times for some people and, not surprisingly, the holidays are when the bulk of family fights occur. In fact, a book I’m reading now about writing has a story about a woman whose most memorable times with her family were on the regular days, not during the holidays when there were so many unmet expectations that often resulted in conflicts.

That’s when it dawned on me, maybe I shouldn’t have any expectations at all, other than that one big expectation of Jesus being born into this world to save us.

Last year I made an even bigger mistake of lowering my expectations. I figure that was the safest route. Wrong! What do you do when even your lowered expectations are not met? That’s the position I put myself in and it was even harder than the year before when I had high expectations.

So what am I trying to say here? I’m not really sure. Maybe just that we, or rather I, have focused on the things that I thought Christmas was or should be based on postcards, and based on stubborn family traditions. Traditions in themselves are not bad things, but when they keep us from adapting to change, which is inevitable, they can be. And when traditions keep us from recognizing the true reason for the season, then it’s definitely time to begin some new traditions. That’s what I plan to do.

Also, keep in mind that nobody can make us mad on Christmas. We ourselves make that decision whether or not to be mad, sad, destructive, at peace or whatever other mood comes to mind. And please, here’s another big concept I’m also just learning to grasp in my middle ages: Don’t waste time fretting about things that are out of your control. Just make the most with what you do have.
In closing, it doesn’t matter who is with us and who is not this Christmas … because God is everywhere. It doesn’t matter how long we will have to wait for Nana before we can open our presents … because God has already sent his biggest gift of all. And it doesn’t matter if things are not picture perfect … they were anything but picture perfect when Jesus was born in that cold dusty stable .. and yet it was a part of God’s perfect plan.

The only thing that really matters now is that it’s Christmas — a time for all of us, regardless of our circumstances or situations in life — to be filled with joy.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com