Tag Archives: Christmas

Happy Holidays Even When They Aren’t

491As I write this, I am sitting in a bright sun room surrounded by thigh deep snow and loving family. We are having such a peaceful, happy Christmas that my teenaged daughter asked my brother why all nine of us (and the extra 15 who are coming for dinner) didn’t just live together all year round. The answer, of course, has to do with practicality, jobs, schools, extended family in other places, etc.

But her sentiment was sweet. For our family, the holidays are a time to put all our problems on hold and be reminded how we fit into our clan. In our place in the great white north, we cook, eat, watch movies, play card games and go on long walks in crunchy snow. Here we emotionally refuel before heading back to our real lives and the general stresses of life.

Not everyone is so lucky. Many people come from families ravaged by poverty or illness or abuse, that communing with family is only a reminder of a painful past. Christmas is not merry for all. But it can be better. That’s the thing about life. We are all dealt a hand of biological predisposition and environmental circumstance. Some things we can control. Others we can’t. But what we can control are our reactions to adversity.

In some ways I believe life is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we believe that our lives can be better, than we can create it. Thoughts are things. Our thoughts create our moods. Our mood shapes our behaviors. And our behaviors influence the response from our environments. We all have the power to enrich our lives with better relationships and more healthy environments. And it all starts with the montras cycling in our heads. What positive message can we implant today?

WATCH MY VIDEO: How to Forgive Someone


FOR PARENTS: The Consequences of Killing Santa

op-santa-14I remember the conversation with my parents like it was yesterday. I was ten years old and I could feel my ability to imagine slipping away. This startled me so much that I sat my parents down and gravely told them that something very bad was happening to my brain. “The fairies are leaving,” I told them. “Just months ago, if I imagined a fairy, she was right there in front of me, but now it’s getting harder and harder to make her appear.” My parents giggled, of course, at this cute childish analysis of a maturing brain.

Psychologists know that children have evolved to have magical thinking, both as a way to grow intelligence and for emotional protection. According to Kevin Volkan, Ph.D., psychology professor at California State University, Channel Islands, “In our hunter/gatherer past, imagination was a very important skill needed for planning. And when vulnerable children feel afraid, going to their “special place” can be calming. In the most extreme examples of child abuse, an active imagination can contribute to dissociative personality disorder.”

But for the average kid, a natural imagination allows them to accept the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause quite readily. But challenging these cherished beliefs can cause stress to a child who is not ready to let go of the magic in their lives.

A professor of marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University, Jared Durtschi, says there isn’t one set age where kids stop believing the sweet old elf in the red suit. In fact, many children have a transition period that can last for years. And it’s important to know that even though a younger sibling may echo the words of older sibs, that “Santa isn’t real,” he or she may still be flirting with the idea but counting on a parent to reconfirm that this cherished “security blanket “is still available.

But when parents hasten the maturation by bursting a child’s bubble, it can cause anxiety and fears. Those magical characters are some of the greatest comforts a child can have. So, even if your nine, ten, or eleven year old tells you they know “the truth” helping them keep the magic for a little longer can give them an emotional coping mechanism.

FOR PARENTS: Why We Share the Light

Anyone notice lately how cold and dark it’s been? We are near the winter solstice, the darkest days of the year, when the earth is tilted furthest from the star we orbit.

Imagine if you were part of an ancient tribe who lived off the land, shivering, and digging for old roots in these weeks? You’d be waiting. And wondering. Wondering if the sun would ever come back in long stints and seeds would sprout again and bring another harvest. You’d be hoping. And you’d be worrying.

You probably know how humans best manage their anxiety and gain strength. They huddle up. Our ancient people all over the world sat with family around fires and told stories filled with inspiring metaphors to assuage their fears for their survival.

And today those warm stories and fire ceremonies have evolved to become one of many festivals around the world at this time of year involving light, food, family and huddling up. Pay attention to how similar these holidays sound.

Diwali is celebrated during five days in late November by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. Diwali roughly translates into “row of lamps” and involves the ritualistioc lighting of small clay lamps while people who celebrate Diwali don new clothes and share sweet food with family and friends.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated around the world to commemorate a miraculous oil lamp that kept the a Maccabee temple lit for eight days. The festival is observed by lighting a special candelabra each night and giving gifts and sharing meals with family for eight nights.

Yalda is the Persian celebration of the winter solstice and celebrates the victory of light and good over darkness. Friends and family gather until late at night to gaze at the night and eat red fruits to evoke the crimson hues of dawn.

Kwanzaa, a week-long American celebration observed at the end of December that honors African-American heritage and involves the lighting of a seven candles, a feast and gift giving.


And then there is this night. The night where Christians find comfort and peace. with the symbols of a star that shone bright in the sky over a manger that held new life.

This is it. Christmas. The night that my own ancestors anointed to assuage their fears of darkness. My Nativity scene is on display and my tree is lit. I’ll have many friends, family and even musicians and song this evening. I am excited and happy.

By my way is no better than yours.  In fact, it’s not much different. We are all in this darkness together. Happy Holidays! Cheers to love and light.

Faith, Science and Superheroes in the Age of Anxiety

As I write this, my youngest daughter is minutes away from visual proof that an old man with a beard came down her chimney and made her dreams come true. My older daughter, a Twilight fan, plans to grow up to be a Vampire or, at least, a Werewolf. In Wisconsin this week, thousands are flocking to see the first ever, Catholic approved siting in the United States of an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Also today, millions of people around the world will not question the historic birth of a man who is reported to have walked on water and fed entire raves with only a couple bagels.

Continue reading Faith, Science and Superheroes in the Age of Anxiety

Holiday Cheer, Recession Style – How to Spread Cheer Without Spending Money.


The December holidays, no matter which religious history, are a way to create light in the darkest days of the year. It is a time to come together with family and friends and be thankful for our health and happiness.  With money tight for many American families, how can you lift your moods and spirits on a budget? Answer: Give of yourself and strengthen family connections. Here are ten ways to find meaning in the holidays without spending much dough.

1. Forgo gluttonous holiday parties with people you are not close to. The holidays have become a hectic time of forced festivities. A new dress and a bottle of champagne as a hostess gift, followed by an unwelcome hang over, might not be the way to make your life meaningful. Let this year be the year of peace, quiet, and intimate gatherings. A glass of wine by the fire with three people will provide more sustenance than a smoke-filled rave.

2. Find a new cause to give to… whether it’s flowers for an old folks home, or toys for underprivileged kids. This is the year to give to those who really need, and fill your heart with love.

3. Celebrate a lost family tradition or research and plan a new one. This is the year to go to your parents church or temple, or to find a soul enhancing experience that will become your tradition. Join a new age church. Meditate by candle light. The root of all December holidays is an urge to find safety and light in the cold, long nights of winter. Find a ritual that helps you feel peace.

4. Give homemade gifts. This is the year to resurrect your grandmother’s lost art of preserving food. Make sauces, jams, eggnog or baked goods. These items will be far more appreciated than anything manufactured in China.


5. Get the family together. Yes, even the ones you may not be so fond of. This is an opportunity to heal old emotional wounds, bond with kinfolk and connect with your roots. When I asked my eleven-year-old what is her favorite thing about Christmas, she didn’t miss a beat when she said, “Family.” Then she paused for a nano-second and followed up with, “Presents!”

6. The quantity of gifts is more exciting to kids than their value. Any parent who has endured the Christmas competition known as the “Present Tally,” can attest that kids love LOTS of gifts. We were never rich growing up but my mom always wrapped up socks, underwear, comic books, and chocolates. The presents were beautifully decorated and filled with anticipation and excitement. On Christmas day the joy was rarely in the gift’s expense, it was in the expansive array of colorful packages. Trust me, a $2 wind up toy takes on new meaning when it comes in a box within a box wrapped in shinny paper and bows.

7. Make a holiday TV special an event. Instead of going to an expensive Christmas show or leaving the TV on as background, rent a favorite Christmas DVD (mine is always WHITE CHRISTMAS) and make an appointment with the family. Make hot chocolate and popcorn and create a pillow theater on the floor. Kids will remember these moments of family closeness more than the details in the movie.

8. With the kids out of school and amusement parks being pricey, this is your chance to explore the museums in your own city. You might be pleasantly surprised to see how much kids can get out of an art museum.

9. Graham Cracker Ginger Bread houses. My tummy is full with one as I write this. Enough said.

10. Blast those Christmas carols! Music and song have a special influence on our psyche. Music can lift our spirits and heal our souls. Don’t hold back. Hum a carol yourself!