01 Dec 24 Ways to Grow this Holiday Season
I grew up Jewish, so Christmas and all its accessories were a bit foreign to me as a kid. In my Christian friends’ homes I would see a big fancy tree, presents, candy canes, and sometimes elves, bells, angels, stars, wreaths, holly, candles, reindeer, birds, nutcrackers, and large red socks. I wasn’t really sure which of these items were specifically Christian and which were available for Jews to enjoy without God getting angry. I was hesitant to ask anyone about them because it seemed like a betrayal of Judaism to be interested in these things, though it also felt like I was missing out on something big.
One of the items of particular interest to me was a box with 24 little doors or drawers. I deduced that they had something to do with the days of December leading up to Christmas. I was playing with a friend one day, and as we ran past his box of little drawers, he said, “Oh, yeah!” and stopped abruptly. He opened the drawer with the current date on it, took out a foil-wrapped piece of chocolate, stuffed it in his mouth, pointed at me and said, “Sucker!” Boy, was I envious. Two dozen extra gifts! I couldn’t help thinking that Christians had it all figured out, and that it sort of sucked to be Jewish – a thought I had a lot of guilt about, which was lucky because Jews don’t have enough guilt.
Decades later, I married a Christian-by-default girl, and as our first Christmas approached, she revealed the closely guarded secrets of all these symbols. I was then old enough to know that God doesn’t get pissed off by people celebrating in ways that aren’t aligned with their religion of origin, and I had even begun to seriously consider that Jews have about as much right to claim Jesus on their team as Christians do. Despite my aversion to the Jews for Jesus pamphlets my Protestant grandmother sent throughout my childhood in an effort to subvert my mother’s conversion, as far as I could tell he was a deeply holy, tolerant, and loving being. And that made me feel a lot better about still wanting one of those boxes with the doors and little presents inside.
Today is December first, which means it’s time to open the first door on your Advent calendar, and I’d like to propose an alternative to chocolate for anyone who wants to participate with me. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, we’ve got 24 days leading up to it, during which time we’ll all be bombarded with lots of “Christmasy” stuff that’s pretty much the opposite of what Jesus was about. Of course, there are more serious Advent calendars that feature things like Bible verses instead of chocolates, but I don’t think it’s necessary to dispense with the gifts altogether, and I prefer making this a Self-guided process. (I capitalized Self because I’m talking about your highest self – or soul, or spirit, or whatever other term you prefer.)
So, let’s connect to some metaphors. Each day, there’s an opening and the discovery of a gift. For the next 24 days, you can ask yourself, “Where can I open myself?” or “What could I be more open to in my life?” or “How shall I open today?” or “What door is ready to open, and what threshold is it time for me to cross?” Just let the answer come to you. Or simply feel where you’re tight or closed, and allow opening to occur.
Next, it’s gift time! Be on the lookout for it. You don’t have to do anything to make the gift arrive, but if you have a visceral memory of that pre-holiday eagerness, you’re welcome to tap into that. A gift is on its way and your job is just to recognize it and receive it. Maybe it will be some unexpected money, or a compliment, or a feeling of joy or peace, or a hug, or the perception of an inner gift you weren’t aware of. Tell us what happens. Sharing your experience is what “holiday spirit” is all about, and it helps others see what’s possible!
Dr. Peter Borten