I'm never ready for this season to end. I'd like to linger in this state of breathless anticipation for months, dragging out the celebration and the awe. I guess you could say that "all I want for Christmas is two whole weeks of celebration."
But that's not quite how it works.
Even the Christmas spirit dies out long before the last notes of the last carol is sung.
Do a brief search on the internet, and you'll discover that there are almost as many definitions of "Christmas spirit" as there are people who are offering them. The definitions vary from joyfulness to thoughtfulness to that funky feeling that makes you wear that ugly sweater.
I'm not about to throw out another definition. In fact, I'm not even sure that one is needed. We all recognize it in the glow of children's faces as they listen to the Christmas story, in the magical tinkling of bells, in the strains of the "Hallelujah Chorus."
No, Christmas spirit really doesn't need to be defined.
It needs to be captured. It needs to be put to work all year long, from the bleak, dreary January days to the hot and sticky July afternoons.
How can we harness the enthusiasm of the season into an attitude we live out all year long?
I'm certainly no expert, but I do know a few things that have worked for me.
Be positive. Yes, life is hard. Yes, rotten things happen sometimes. But instead of becoming cynical and bitter about the lemons in our hands, we have the option to make something productive with them. With all of life, we have the choice to make the most of things. Or as someone said it, "You are always responsible how you act, no matter how you feel." If your actions are positive, your emotions will follow.
Give. Giving is the best way to be happy and to live in the Christmas spirit. One of my friends spent her Lent season doing something random and kind for someone else each day. She found those weeks to be an incredibly rich season in her life. Find a way to do something kind for someone, look for places to volunteer, or be on the look-out for someone needing a kind word.
Play. Part of what makes Christmas so enjoyable is the fact that everyone wants to relax and have fun. There are fewer people tied to their desks and more people up for a game of Monopoly or baking cookies or playing in the snow. This doesn't have to be an attitude restricted to only one month (or even a few days) of the year. Sure, there's work to be done. But after work (and make sure there is an "after work"), take the time to invest in making memories with your loved ones.
Look for little things. If you expect happiness to occur on your two-week cruise to the Bahamas, you might be right--or you might be incredibly let down. Don't wait until you have time off work or a big event planned to start having fun. Enjoy life right now, in the moment, with whatever you're doing now. And don't keep that a secret. Let everyone know that you are enjoying life. Joy like this is contagious.
Christmas is not meant to be an isolated holiday, with the Christmas spirit only found in the days surrounding it. It is meant to be an attitude lived out every day of the year. I hope you continue to find joy in the year to come.