The holiday season for as long as I can remember, has been the time when families come together, celebrate the birth and life of Christ, make amends for any misdeeds done during the year, share gifts and meals and reconcile with estranged loved ones. Unfortunately, for some, those gestures are forgotten soon after the holidays have passed.
Christmas takes on an entirely different and quite serious dynamic for children-and I believe they should be afforded the fantasy and wonder that the magic of the holidays can bring. There is the imminent visit from Santa, the patriarchal figure of Christmas, who rides a sleigh from the North Pole, pulled by reindeer distributing gifts to all kids who were especially good that year, i.e; obedient, well mannered and in some regards, academically exceptional. Children around the world wait with bated breath for Santa on Christmas Eve night, leaving gifts of cookies and milk for him, in the hopeful anticipation that Santa will have read their wish list and deliver to them the toy(s) they so anxiously and impatiently desire. Of course, he never shows up while they are awake. But in the morning when they arise, they find that the cookies left for him have been eaten, presents are gift wrapped with bows under the tree, and their once empty stockings adorning the fireplace are newly filled with assorted candies.
To say that the holiday season is filled with Christmas trees, bright colorful lights, candles, egg nog and Christmas carols and is to many, the most wonderful time of the year, would be a gross understatement. And that is without factoring in the New Year's Eve celebration.
So it was rather strange and alarming even, for some to learn that I would be spending the entire holiday season in another country. The correct perspective would be that, for me this is nothing unusual. When I was a young kid, though my family celebrated the holiday, my mother was completely forthcoming in dispelling the myth of Christmas and Santa Claus for me. She taught me that gift giving was not indicative of the true spirit of Christmas, for their were children around the world who were also good kids still not as fortunate as we were to have toys during the holidays and that God loved them just as much. Thankfulness, charity and praying for others less fortunate became a ritual not just at Christmas but year round because, as my mother taught, the true meaning of Christmas was the gift of life and salvation made through Christ's sacrifice.
From the time I was 17, I was on some stage for most holidays esp New Years or Christmas. It was not unusual for me to be getting on a plane Christmas morning leaving my family bcuz I could only spend 2-3 days with them but had to be back on stage or the road for the holiday. Though I knew I was leaving due to a professional obligation, I still felt the subtle guilt that I would not be participating in the holidays equal to everyone else. So the holidays were always associated with me rushing to get gifts sent out before the holidays, finding the perfect or ideal gift that would compensate for my absence or somehow pardon my misplaced guilt.
It wasn't until a few years ago when I had some extensive time off to spend with family during the holidays that I realized the person I became and strove to be spiritually didn't ideally fit into this holiday custom at all anymore. The pressure and imposition of the holiday seemed redundant and excessive to me and filled me with resentment and stress instead of freedom and love. I thought, is this supposed spirit of the holiday only relevant and vital during this season? What do ppl do the rest of the year with their good cheer? I realized that for me personally, the practice of giving thanx, gifts, and the sharing of myself with those I love were best done on a regular basis, freely and without obligation. A daily practice, not just a seasonal imposition. When this thought was juxtaposed with the facts that Christmas isn't even Christ's birthday, Santa had nothing to do with Christ, my epiphanous light bulb lit up brightly. I knew that to fully celebrate what was meant to be a sacred holiday, I must worship God in spirit and truth. My truth.
So, this year, there is a complete shift, one in which doing what ultimately makes me happy and putting my needs above foreign expectation (pun intended) is paramount and necessary. While I love my family and wish them a joyous holiday it feels great to be in Russia, without the pressure to participate (aside from any performances I may give), to focus on my spiritual path, listen, just have a time of relaxation, take in a new experience, and absorb a peaceful intimate journey. As I near the end of what is continuing to be a wonder-full year, my prayer is to find ways to better myself, contribute to making the world a better place for all to live in, as Christ did.
In the year 2011, with all of its blessings, challenges and revelations, the lesson that resonates the most for me is,
"AT ALL COSTS, LIVE THE LIFE THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY."
While I am connected to the whole of humanity, this is MY journey and no externally imposed dogma, beliefs, expectations or conditions serve me nor are they mine to bear." We were all meant to experience our lives freely and fully in whatever ways bring us closer to the truth of who we are. And in that spirit, I would like to wish each of you a happy holiday season and a fulfilling 2012. I pray it has true meaning for you and be abundant with the spirit of truth, love and joy.
Happy Holidays, Peace & LIGHT