Christmas. The birth of Jesus. Family. Love. The smell of Christmas trees. Happiness. Joy. Traditional Christmas lunch, dinner, or both. Presents. The feeling that everything will be fine as long as you are surrounded by your loved ones.
In a few words that is how most people see the Christmas day around the world, but behind all of the Christmassy joyfulness, in the world lie a few things which we tend to not give much importance to.
Growing up as a child in Bucharest Christmas day seemed to be a wonderful time. Waking up to the smell of my grandmother’s countless traditional recipes ranging from appetizers to mains to deserts felt like a fairy tale. But as if having a table full of food wasn’t enough, the oven and fridge would get overfilled too. Yes, we would have guests but there wouldn’t be more than fifteen people around the table, yet we had food to feed probably more than thirty. The presents would be flooding the floor by the Christmas tree. Everything was joyous and celebratory. Looking out of the window I could see the flats all around all covered in lights, each of them having a big natural Christmas tree. Everything seemed bright and happy. The glasses would be full at all times and the Christmas dinner always as packed as it could be. Family and relatives catching up on their lives for another year or so would pass until they see each other again. Then I would see a rewind of it on Boxing Day.
But what happens after all of it passes? We’re in the new year now. In the markets trees are lying dead; as if that wasn’t enough I could see plenty of used trees just lying in front or at the back of every block of flats or house. All used up, only their branches left. As a child I didn’t fully grasp the severity of the problem. I thought “oh well, trees grow easily, don’t they?” It would take me a few years to find out that all isn’t as rosy as it seemed.
Leaving the Christmas tree aside, you remember those presents? Yes, the ones that were stacking up on top of each other. The clothes, the games, the dolls and all of the rest of stuff that I might have used once and then put on the side and forgot about until it was time to clean my room as it was quickly overfilling with stuff. Stuff all around, stuff that in a year or two I would throw away, stuff that didn’t matter but it was produced and sold and given a passing meaning. All of that would soon end up scattered somewhere around the planet. What about all of that food? Sure it’s lovely to have left-overs, but after a few days of eating countless Christmas treats you get fed up with it, and by the time you realize it, it’s too late to offer it to the people in need so it ends up in the bin. Following the same cycle as the trees and the presents.
After years and years of going through this cycle over and over again, I got tired and I began feeling angry towards the world. Why? Because it felt like we all robbed this holiday of its meaning. I even began to hate Christmas and wish it would never happen again. That’s until I began talking to more and more people…
Christmas is about giving back to the world, not taking stuff away from it. What deeply moved me, was finding out that one of my acquaintances was going to spend Christmas volunteering at a homeless shelter. That moment I thought to myself, that’s a selfless action to do which fills your heart with more joy than a Christmas tree, boxes full of presents or countless treats would ever do. Giving something back to the world without expecting anything in return. And slowly, I began to understand the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about how many presents Father Christmas got you or how much food you have on your table, it isn’t any sort of race to show who’s best. It is a time for giving back to the ones that mean something to you. It’s about love and humanity. It’s about the flame that burns in our hearts. It’s about being humane. It’s what you make it be; it can be a gift or a hit in the stomach. You have the power to make a difference to yourself and others.
Have a lovely time this Christmas and make the most out of it.