I once knew a woman who believed she could create a Christmas canvas of the heart whenever it felt right. I can understand her impulse. She sincerely believed that the important part of Christmas occurred in the heart. Therefore, she decided to celebrate Christmas when it felt “right.”
Sometimes that feeling happened for her a few weeks later in January. I had to stifle the cynical thought that it wasn’t hard to imagine how all those after-Christmas sales would make your heart feel right about buying.
Sometimes she had the right feeling about creating Christmas in a warm season. The kids would be wearing shorts, going to summer camps, and making lemonade, but she would declare the time was right for Christmas. She’d remind her family that, after all, the Australians celebrate Christmas in mid-summer, too.
The practice caused a certain amount of turmoil in her family with the kids seeing themselves as a have-not family. Her husband indulgently chalked it up to another power play by the creative powerhouse he married, but a fairly harmless one, and oh well . . .
Initially I felt sympathetic. There’s a whole lot I’d change about my culture if I could. I’m not alone with her in feeling this way. The impulse to change things is largely responsible for the tremendous energy behind authors and film makers who create fantasy, as well as the huge reader/viewer response. We invent fictional worlds that could be, but aren’t.
To what purpose? To help us all feel a little better about living in such a flawed culture as our own? To show the way that things really could be different if we learned to think differently? So, is that really what this acquaintance of mine was doing with her fluid concept of the date for a Christmas celebration? I’ve wondered for years about the authenticity of her motivation.
Supposing she meant it as a sincere critique of her culture, does merely changing the date change anything? Since she decorated the house in the traditional way, they gave gifts in the material way, and took several days off school/work as necessary, it was still the same holiday with all the dominant culture accoutrements.
I wonder if her stance was really in defiance of the materialism of our culture as she said, or if she wanted to demonstrate the power of her personage, sort of like changing the flow of a river. “I can create Christmas whenever I choose despite millions who do it on December 25th.” Was the whole performance actually camouflage for arranging a highly valued major celebration around her own emotional needs?
What I’ve taken from knowing her, however, is the value in searching for that feeling of rightness in ones heart at Christmas time. It only comes when I am able to focus outside my immediate impulses, when I have no agenda whatsoever, when I manage to be completely open.
Not that I think happiness comes from being a blank canvas. But if the canvas is already filled, then the picture is complete before the event of Christmas occurs.
To present a canvas that is prepared for a beautiful memory to be painted there is the gift of the heart I want to give this year.