Christmas is all about warming and expanding our hearts. This holds true whether it is observed as a religious or a secular holiday.
In its beginnings as a religious story, there were stars beckoning, angels reassuring, and wise men bearing gifts. Heartwarming! In one of our modern secular stories, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, when the Grinch finally experiences the meaning of Christmas, his heart grows three sizes! Heart expanding!
Whichever way you participate in Christmas, it’s ultimately a celebration of humanity at its best and most spiritually attuned.
In yoga, we talk about the "heart centre" as the place we find “emotional capacity to relate to one another, to open up and show our true selves, to love, feel compassion, empathy, and gratitude towards ourselves and others.” (Ashley Reed, yoga teacher).
In these times when many of us feel distress about the economy, the environment and our lack of connection with others, it makes sense to harness the heart energy of Christmas as an opportunity to share our time, love and skills with each other. In this way, we can experience the essence of Christmas without breaking the bank or trashing the environment. Going into unwanted debt and sending 25 per cent more material to the landfill are not in alignment with the spirit of the season. In fact, they create unnecessary angst. ZerowasteCanada.ca states: ”Sometimes we confuse trying to create an abundance of joy with an abundance of stuff.” Further, “the reward for trying to compete ... with Martha Stewart to produce the most extravagant Christmas is unnecessary stress and usually lots of waste.” Heartbreaking!
One of the best things I’ve read this season was shared to me by a dear friend. It is an article called “12 Gifts that Really Matter” by James Colquhoun. He offers a #GiftofGiving challenge to encourage a positive spirit of giving. I love his ideas. Most of them are simple and many are free, and we know that many of the best things in life are free.
One of the article’s gems is spending time with friends and family doing things you love together. This reminds me how my children often made me vouchers for a hug or a foot rub. I still feel my heart swell a decade later when I come across one of these relics in my night table drawer. My mom started a seasonal crafting tradition that still gets us together and laughing during this busy season.
I also like the author’s "wrapping a gift mindfully" suggestion. There are some beautiful DIY gift-wrapping ideas. Many include recycled paper or repurposed fabric; some are even hand painted! Heart stopping!
Making a meal for someone is a tried-and-true classic gift from the heart. One final idea that touched me is to pass forward a favourite book with a hand-written note tucked inside explaining why the book moved you and why you thought to share it with the receiver.
I’ll close with one of the silliest, most heart-expanding (and rhythmic) authors, Dr Seuss. He writes: "What if Christmas ... doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!” And, “Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.”
Jill Cunningham grew up in St. Albert, has a Bachelor of Education from University of Alberta and is passionate about nature, the environment, and building community.