By Margay Leah Justice
This time of year as we celebrate Thanksgiving with Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday shopping and are constantly barraged by special deals and holiday cheer, we often get so caught up in the commercialization of the holiday that we tend to forget what it’s all about. I admit I go into panic mode the first time I see a holiday-themed commercial on TV and start worrying about all the things that are yet to be done – who doesn’t? With this store telling you they can give you a deal on that and that program telling you what is the Must Have gift of the season, it’s so easy to get so caught up in the Must Have-Buy Now for less mentality of the season that your nerves end up in a bundle to rival that of the Christmas tree lights you just had to keep from last year to save on the cost this year. And what do we do with those lights? Toss them in the trash and buy new ones because they’re just not worth the effort to unravel them and, ultimately, one of them is not going to work anyhow, which throws the rest off. But what do we do when we take the tree down after New Year’s? Bundle the lights away with the ornaments to put back on the tree next year, you know, to save a little money.
Next year: Push Play and repeat on your Holidays-Make-Me-Crazy recorder.
Lost in the brightly-colored wrappings, perky bows, tinsel and mistletoe is the message of the holiday season. We are so caught up in the process of getting the perfect gift at the best price to give to the most deserving at the gathering to beat every other gathering that came before that we forget one simple fact. The holiday isn’t about how much money you save – or spend – or how well you decorate or plan a gathering. It’s about how you actually celebrate the day. It’s about the people you surround yourself with when you pass on the traditions that were passed on to you. Do you think Mary and Joseph were worried about how the manger looked when all of those people came to visit after the birth of their son? Did Mary have to leave Thanksgiving dinner early to go stand in line at the local Best Buy until it opened on Black Friday so she could get a killer deal on a iPad? So why do we? When did this holiday season become all about getting the best gift for or from someone and not about why we celebrate it in the first place?
For me, one of the best memories I have about Christmas happened during one of the most trying times in my life. I found myself without a home, so I was living in a hotel room with my two young daughters as we waited for a spot to open up in a local shelter. We didn’t have much of anything then – certainly not enough to celebrate the holiday – but we got through it with the help of strangers who donated gifts to us. But what made this day really special was how my older daughter (who was about 11 at the time) made our Christmas tree. She drew it – on notebook paper. Not just one piece, but several, each piece containing a part of the tree. Then she aligned them all together, like a puzzle, and taped the whole to the wall. We didn’t have much, but we did have the spirit of the season and it took my young daughter to remind me of what it truly means to celebrate the season. Now, some years later, as I find myself in difficult circumstances again, my daughters both remind me that it’s not about the gifts that are exchanged on that day. It’s about the people whom you choose to spend the day with – they are the true gifts of the season. Of every season.
About the Author: Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words.
Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told.