Starting in early November, we’re all inundated with ads and emails about holiday shopping. Malls decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Early Black Friday sales start on Veterans Day. It’s nearly impossible to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday stress. Commercials on TV show new toys that children must have, engagement rings that are more sparkly than last year’s, and glamorous shots of holiday parties—complete with mistletoe and kissing.
The next month is a time when the secular world tries to make us feel that our lives are missing something—whether it’s a product, a service, or a significant other. Offices have parties—and we have to decide if we want to attend solo … Again. Family dinners come complete with the always-welcome questions about why we aren’t married and what’s wrong with Tom from work or Joe from church. Despite Christmas being a joyful time, we end up being stressed out and lonely. But wait…what are we stressed about?
Christmas begins on Christmas Day. Advent this year begins the first week of December. For Catholics, Advent is the start of the new liturgical year. It’s a season that reflects on the coming of the baby Jesus, born in a stable on a freezing cold night. It should be a prayer-filled time that gives us an opportunity to think about how we want to re-ignite our spiritual life. We should make a sincere effort to make a good confession to prepare for the coming of Our Lord. We should concentrate on making our Christmas communion the best gift we can to Our Savior, who became Man to save our souls.
The more we get caught up in the materialistic way of “celebrating” Christmas, the more we distance ourselves from the true meaning of the season. Maybe when we shop for our family and friends this year, we can avoid buying things for people. We often get so caught up in the shopping and wrapping, that maybe we don’t even realize how fleeting these things are. Christmas is a perfect opportunity to make plans with our friends. Instead of another candle or pair of earrings, what about a trip to a museum and lunch? An offer to make dinner and babysit so tired parents can have a night out? Instead of another battery-operated toy, why not take the nephews and nieces to a show or a park? Taking the time to think up creative ideas can help us get out of our own little world for a bit. In past years, my church choir has caroled in my neighborhood, and at nursing homes and hospitals. We’ve met with nothing but joy and gratitude.
When it comes to office parties and church gatherings, singles have two options: plan a quiet night at home (there’s no shame in this!) or plan to go out and enjoy ourselves. Going to parties alone can be a little daunting. I’m not a bubbly person and sometimes I find it easier to stay home than be faced with a full room of people, even if I know them all. One thing I try to do is make myself useful—sometimes helping the hostess is a good way to talk to people without getting stuck in an awkward conversation. Maybe you could bring a fun game or an interesting appetizer. I also try to make an effort to talk to people who may not know anyone else. Making others comfortable makes a social situation less intimidating for me, and hopefully I’m helping others as well.
Christmas is a time to bring joy to others, not to wallow in our own concerns. Let’s use this Advent to grow in our Faith so we’ll be better equipped to bring happiness to others this Christmas season.