Musings on The Making of a Holiday

The multi-talented Kourtenaye Monroe is one of our beloved volunteers at NWFFest.

It hit me like a punch in the gut or a slap in the face.

Most of us have done it -- sent that mass text or email to all those people we may have wanted to keep in touch with throughout the year, but just didn't get around to it.

OH wow, is it that time again already!? Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Chanukah! Have a great time celebrating Kwanzaa! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

It’s a simple way to let those we care for know they are not forgotten, though we may not be in each other's lives the way we once were. But the text response from my high school friend came back with a terse: We don't celebrate holidays. It shook me.

She was one of my “sisters from another mister” who had married and moved away to raise her lovely kids outside the city. My reaction to her response was so visceral, I felt that it would be too personal to try and dig into WHY. So as not to offend her, I just accepted it and changed the subject.

Over the years I have gleaned that my personal brand of highly enthusiastic friendliness can be a bit much for some, and I've adjusted. But the holidays have always been the time when others are generally more receptive to my cheeriness…I mean c'mon. Let me love you! If not now, on a designated day of celebration, then when?!

My friend didn’t intend to be harsh. Later I understood that the choice to forego holidays was due to adopting her husband's religious practice. And of course I truly respect everyone’s right to express their faith freely. Members of my own extended family similarly choose not to acknowledge holidays, so I’ve experienced this “walking on eggshells” situation before.

The experience with my friend got me thinking about just what it is the holidays really represent. What makes these days important enough to hold sway as traditions we consider a staple of our yearly lives -- or not.

This time of year can hit many of us like an avalanche; the deluge of back-to back events can often create more on our to-do lists than the leisurely stress-relief that we hope for. I can understand the customary complaints of over-commercialization, or pairing down to avoid potential burnout from overextending oneself with social obligations and spending. These are all healthy boundaries, and to each her own.

But at the heart of things, the holidays are a tool. A social agreement that communally gives us something to look forward to -- to celebrate milestones, and the spirit of giving and kindness -- as often as socially possible. We have a reason -- even permission -- to relax, to give thanks, and to focus on what's good (yes, there really is always something). And for all I can see, we need that vibe now, more than ever, because none of us is promised tomorrow.

As I sit enjoying holiday musicals from my favorite era of classic filmmaking -- Holiday Inn and White Christmas -- I’m reminded of those worthwhile “warm fuzzy feels” that make these times so memorable. Holiday films, like the holidays themselves, serve a valuable purpose -- to uplift.

So, I guess I’m working through my crestfallen indignation at not getting to include some people I care about in the communal spirit of celebration these last few months our North American calendar year are imbued with.

I'd like to believe that since we can choose to create these traditional days set aside for good will, that we can also agree to carve out time more frequently, to give permission to be good to one another and to ourselves...as often as our priorities will allow.

Not to get too Dickensian, but come New Year’s Eve, I'll probably make my resolution: To keep the spirit of the holiday season in my heart throughout the year...to unceasingly commemorate accomplishments, celebrate freedom, and cherish loved ones. Even if it means setting a calendar reminder to check in on a friend I haven't heard from in awhile, on a day that's just because.