Thoughts encountered during the holiday season

Thank you to my friend, Yanni for submitting the following post.  I had never looked at the cold holiday season through this lense.  And now that I have, it can’t be undone and this simple thought will help me stay warm ;)

With love and gratitude,

Natalie. xo

“Thoughts encountered during the holiday season”

So it’s not even December yet and chilly air with a blanket of white have covered the city (at least in Kamloops).  Temperatures fluctuate slightly throughout the days, but we all know it is getting colder and darker–most of us will complain a little, but only because we must.

We will hear, “Is it cold enough for ya?” many times until the spring rains.  Comments about crazy drivers that, “must have had only had summer tires!” or, “was driving so slow could have caused an accident” will echo amongst friends and strangers.  We will agree to the small kernel of truth, even if we know the person speaking is just relieving the anxiety of wintertime on the road.

But the season also brings forth a change to many people’s personalities.  With only eyes, a nose, and possibly a mouth peeking out from layers of clothing, we are almost wearing identical costumes with the freedom of anonymity to act different–often for the better.  And chill wind doesn’t not care on whom it blows: rich, poor, young, or old, a runny nose is the common outcome for all.

And there is a deeper communal feel to walking on the street, passing someone in the foyer of an office or mall, we are all bundled up and we know why.  Few of us really want to go outside, but know we must, and empathise and understand those we meet.  Like being at rally in the park, sitting with fellow fans at a sports event, or attending a religious service, we are in the cold together, focused on a single goal, and will only get to warmth and comfort of our car/desk/home/store/bathroom/coffee-shop if we work together.

Winter brings people together in a way that no other season or social activity can.  By passing over everything and everyone equally, it is the common enemy that makes allies of strangers.  And the colder and more troublesome it becomes, the more we put aside differences and misunderstandings: your neighbour’s cat pooping on your lawn isn’t that important (or even a memory) when there are 3 feet of snow off your driveway and your neighbour offered his snow-blower when you pulled in last night.

There’s a reason why the spiritual and philanthropic ideals of Christmas and Hanukkah (and even Thanksgiving in Canada and the US) work so well in regions that have a cold, snow-filled season.  Yes, major religious and political holidays happen during the warm & beautiful seasons, but they don’t have the same long, multi-week, and deep-meaning of those that happen when it’s dark and cold, when there is so much joy in simply putting on cozy sweater and enjoying some chicken soup.  July 1st & 4th may have fireworks and BBQs, but Christmas has building snowmen followed by a mug of hot chocolate.

And everyone finds benefits from small acts of charity and understanding passed along during the winter season.  Holding a door open for someone when the snow is falling is heavenly, dropping spare change in a Salvation Army bucket is priceless, or helping a person with groceries to safely get to a car is a Godsend.  It is the feeling of joining an impromptu family during a snowball fight, helping at a charity or homeless Christmas dinner, or meeting friends of friends of friends at a house party: we are all brothers, sisters, or comrades-in-kindness.

Of course, there are definitely the insane moments, such as last minute shoppers trying to get ahead of the line, or people completely intolerant of anyone occupying more than their fair share of a clerk’s time.  But these happen in a nice warm store, not when BCAA is jumping starting someone’s car, in line to get to the top of the ski hill, or waiting for the bell to ring on the last day of school before winter break–we are patient for the important things.

Sadly, the snow will melt, days will become longer and warmer, and winter clothing will go back into the closet.  Our social attitudes will revert to what they were before putting on the parka, a little more self-aware and critical of others.

It’s nice to imagine that those feelings of winter philanthropy could stick with us throughout the year, but they are important only because of their temporary quality: something isn’t special if it happens everyday.  And not to say those that live in warm climates without winter are any less empathic and serving of others.

It’s just that when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, he’s also nipping at everyone else’s as well–and that’s the true meaning of the holiday season….I guess?!

– Yanni

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