How the Holiday Season Can Illuminate Our Compassion


    As the anticipated holiday season approaches, a sense of cheer and excitement is nestled in the wintry air. Multi-colored lights shine throughout residential neighborhoods, illuminating the Christmas trees and menorahs inside various homes. White lights glisten on trees, shimmering like gold in the night. The streets are festive as families gather over Christmas and Hanukkah traditions and share stories and food and laughter and merriment. (I’m of the Jewish faith, but I’m lucky to celebrate both holidays.)

    Since my boyfriend’s family is Catholic, I have attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve. At the end of the service, it is custom for everyone to say “may peace be with you” — to each other — but also to those we don’t know, complete strangers.

    That sentiment alone, in my opinion, neatly sums up the holiday season; it neatly ties it all together into a pretty red bow. Because isn’t peace, for one another, for ourselves, what we all strive for anyway?

    A line from one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Joy to the World,” usually comes to mind; the line is echoed several times throughout the song and is such a sweet reminder of this notion. For peace and contentment. Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.

    The holiday season has the ability to bring forth our compassion, and there’s multiple ways to approach this premise.

    We may find that forgiveness comes more readily for those we believe wronged us, for those we are not exactly fond of, and we may find that pesky grudges do not need to be upheld any longer. We may look inward and reflect on the subject of human nature; the simple truth that most people do not act blindly, and usually deep down, we can understand why someone behaves the way they do and what’s rooted at their core. Those negative feelings can wither way in the holiday spirit, the spirit of kindness and generosity and love.

    We may also strive to secure peace within ourselves, too. Since this time of year typically encourages introspection, we can try to soften our thoughts — to not be so hard on ourselves for whatever it is we may be going through in the day to day. Inner peace can fuel self-acceptance and vice versa. I tend to think that peace always starts within ourselves before it can radiate outward, so I generally like to emphasize this particular point. And what better way to foster inner peace than in the midst of bright lights paving the way to the new year, a new beginning.  

    And finally, there’s another angle to approaching compassion as well. In a more outward fashion, there are plenty of overt ways to give to others during this time of year.

    A 2013 mental health blog reiterates how we can utilize self-care during the holiday season and give back to others as well, which only perpetuates positive feelings within ourselves, too.

    “Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone,” the blog post states. “It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.”

    This post relays that random acts of kindness can certainly go a long way: volunteering at a shelter, buying a homeless person a meal, helping an elderly person with their groceries at a supermarket, or buying someone a cup of coffee at Starbucks. All of these acts will surely put a smile on many faces. All of these acts will signify what this season truly embodies.

    The holiday season is that quintessential time of year where the world is lit up. I love the symbolism behind light, and how we can use such light to find the compassion for one another in various ways and, of course, find compassion for ourselves.

    Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.

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