It is all beyond beliefs and gifts
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
@marialepulgar – NAHJ #37172
With as many holiday traditions as families and countries are there, it is difficult for parents to answer with the truth when children ask how presents appear underneath the Christmas tree because there is no absolute truth. It all depends on what each person chooses to believe to preserve their traditions and to create powerful, joyful memories for future generations.
Whether it is Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, La Befana, The Three Kings or any other tradition that a family believes, beyond who delivers the presents, the important part of the holidays resides on preserving the candid joy of sharing special and unforgettable moments, that will forever be intertwined with the happiest childhood memories.
Christmas is a Christian holiday when believers celebrate the birth of Jesus. That is, as they say, “The reason for the Season”.
The secularization of the holiday has led over time to give more importance to the exchanging of gifts than to the gatherings of family and friends to worship and celebrate together during this time of the year.
There are many other people who do not celebrate Christmas, but that does not mean they cannot partake on sharing the Holiday Spirit. At the end of the day, what matters is dedicating a special time during the year to share experiences and moments with those who matter the most, regardless of spending a lot of money on presents or feasts.
Science explains the Holiday Spirit
In 2015, scientists in Denmark demonstrated that what we call the Holiday Cheer or Holiday Spirit exists and is, in fact, measurable with experiments on emotions. When presented with stimuli related with the holidays (music, images, decorations, etc.) people who celebrated them had certain circuits in the brain activated, and it did not happen on those who did not believe nor celebrated the holidays.
Also, Dr. Patrick Keelan, a psychologist in Canada, explained on an article for UNILAD in the United Kingdom that people during the holidays have feelings of happiness because “it is a time that emphasizes family bonding, when many celebrate religion and spirituality.
On their studies about happiness, Peterson and Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania determined that religious and spiritual beliefs and practices “are predictive of other virtues such as altruism, volunteerism, kindness, and forgiveness”. Those are virtues that enhance the sense of wellbeing of a person.
In conclusion, joining the celebration and fostering the Holiday Spirit ends up being beneficial for the wellbeing of a person. No wonder the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes when he joined the Whos to celebrate Christmas.
Is it Holiday Cheer or Holiday Fear?
However, there are people who get anxious or depressed during the holidays. The Holiday Cheer becomes for them “Holiday Fear” or “Holiday Blues”.
Most of the time, the stress related to the holidays appears when people try to live up to the expectations of society: attending social functions, spending on gifts or feasts, visiting family members or friends they have not seen for a long time, etc.
Trying to live up to what society defines as the perfect standards for the holidays, sometimes rob people of their sense of wellbeing, peace, and self-control, which prevents them from focusing on what is really important: appreciating their health and prosperity, and enjoying the time with those who matter most for them.
By focusing on what they do not have they miss out on what they have around. That lack of awareness leads to senses of frustration, and that is when depression and anxiety arise. It is especially noticeable in those who do not have a strong set of beliefs to help them cope during stressful life events.
Generosity increases happiness
A study at the University of Lubeck in Germany discovered in 2017 the mechanisms of the brain that link generous behaviors with an increase of happiness, which in turn motivates enhanced generosity. It means that there are more joy and pleasure in giving than receiving and is a spiral that grows to improve a person’s sense of wellbeing.
In the case of children, those fortunate to receive gifts during the Holidays would benefit greatly of having experiences that foster their altruism and generosity. In this current world with so many needs, opportunities abound for parents to find activities where their children could feel the joy of sharing time, gifts and laughter with other people in need, without getting anything material in return.
Raising socially responsible, generous children will make a difference in future societies, when happy, well-adjusted adults take charge. Regardless of the sets of beliefs a family has, the most important values to instill on their youth should be love, generosity, forgiveness, and respect. What matters during the holidays is not who brings the presents but how parents and other significant adults are present in the lives of their children; it will ensure that the joy and experiences of the season live forever in their memories and their hearts.
With love from all our families at Doral Family Journal, we wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all residents of our City of Doral!