FEATURE - December 2015
The Best Gift This Season is the One Only You Can Give
By Shirley Fessel
Romans observed Saturnalia, the Roman winter solstice. Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th. Soyal, the holiday of the Zuni and Hopi, is held on December 21. The Persian Mithra, born to a virgin mother on December 22, symbolizes light, truth, goodness, strength, and friendship. Hindus’ Pancha Ganapati honors Lord Ganesha for four days from December 21-25. Hannukkah, the Festival of Lights in Judaism, lasts eight days. The Yule of ancient Germanic people was their focus from late December to early January. The birth of Jesus in the Christian tradition can last from Christmas Eve on December 24th through Epiphany on January 6. Kwanzaa, an African American observation, extends from Dec. 26 to Jan 1. We see that cultures around the world seem to feel the need to spread warmth and light at the end of the year to those they care about. “Good tidings to you!” they all seem to say.
Whether your winter season festivities traditionally last one day or 12, gift giving predominates in them all. Our thoughts turn to how we can honor others at the close of the year. We wonder what gift will share our desire for well being: “Carry this with you in winter’s darkness until a new season arrives – and know I am wishing you the best.”
This season, give a gift that will remove some shadow that may have been cast over a relationship or your own heart. Consider one of these five shining gifts this season.
It has been said that forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past. Although the beginning of the year is often the time people think of starting over, clearing out a mental or emotional space has to happen first. We have to make room to move forward.
The winter season is a prime time to lighten a corner of heart, mind, or body. Take an issue you are holding onto and consider whether it deserves to burden us or others. Not forgiving has been compared to drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. We are the ones who pay the price. Forgiving does not mean what happened wasn’t important. We do need to grieve losses. Our pain needs to be witnessed and acknowledged. But then we don’t have to build a room addition for it and move in.
There are many simple tokens or symbols to embody this gift of forgiveness. A simple note can contain the words of release for another, a stone with “forgiveness” on it, a butterfly, symbol of new life beginning again, flying away, and not lingering in futility. The perfect expression will reveal itself to you. It doesn’t matter whether the other person accepts it. You will have lightened your spirit to move forward.
We have all heard someone say a hurried, “Oh, thank you,” or we ourselves have mumbled something similar as we rushed around our day. Few of us, however, have had our day or night light up with a genuine, deeply felt expression of gratitude. Think back over the year to a time when the bell really saved you, by someone’s thoughtfulness or willingness to go the extra mile. Perhaps in the pressure of the experience, you did not get back to letting them know how much it meant, even though you intended to. This is a perfect time of year to give this gift. There are many effective ways to say “Thank you.” Coupons for service throughout the coming year can say, “Because you cared,” or simply a collection of positive statements you have written for them that they can use when needed. A small book of gratitude may suffice, with a note on each page from you to them. Your imagination can come up with many appropriate expressions, and you will catch yourself smiling since expressing gratitude lights up your heart as well.
What makes you feel supported? Someone listening without giving advice? Someone helping to carry a heavy bag? Someone willing to take a phone call? Simply the gift of time? Chances are that the ways you feel supported are needed by another person you know. Give them an expression that you intend to be a support to them in the coming year. You may know how they want to receive that, or you may have to make a commitment to keep in touch regularly to find out. Whatever the form, give the person the gift of knowing someone intends to be in their corner, even if they don’t think they need it. That in itself is often the support that we want. One woman buys a “Day by Day” calendar with tear off pages. She writes on various ones throughout the year so that the person gets a surprise when they come to that page. “Ah-ha! She is thinking of me!” Another way to show support is to schedule loving postcards to send throughout the year on your own calendar. Once you set your intention, gratitude will flow.
Have you felt the overwhelming kindness of being celebrated just for who you are and for no other reason? You can give this tremendous experience to someone else. The writer SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) is well known for her exuberant and unexpected celebrations: of others, life, or even each dust mite. Joy in the existence of a person is a sacred experience. We remember the wonder and awe of seeing a newborn baby. That baby is now grown up and among us. Hold an Honoring Party. Ask everyone to create an expression of how beneficial the person has been, how the person has brightened the world just by being their unique self. Include good natured jokes and ribbing, “remember when” stories, and emphasize what makes that person a one-of-a-kind. Handmade posters, poems, songs, memory books are all good ideas. Because it is not held on a birthday or other expected occasion, few gifts can top this one for shining lasting light far and wide throughout the year. If you cannot hold a party, ask friends to place cards, poems or other tokens with a note in a box that is then wrapped and given to the person during the season.
If you have never been the recipient of a blessing, entirely too much time has passed without one. If you have never given a blessing, entirely too much time has passed without one.
A formal extending of a blessing is a deeply moving and even a healing or transformative experience. It is not as riotous as a Celebration, but as deeply meaningful.
A blessing has four elements:
Acknowledging a quality you value or want to enhance in the person
Noting a time when they displayed that quality
Speaking words of love and appreciation for them
Stating your commitment to be a blessing to them
For a younger person, some add a vision of a positive future.
Adding quotations or verse can help you find words you may want to use. Including meaningful touch, such as hands on the other’s head and looking into their eyes can also add significance to the experience. The person should come away from the blessing knowing they are valued. Concluding with a symbolic token, beverage, or treat can provide a serene sense of completion.
The legacy of the blessing tradition is a long one found in every culture. We all want to be affirmed, to be sent into the world knowing we have a loving, strong person who cherishes us as we go. The accounts of those who did not feel wanted, accepted, or even tolerated are myriad. Giving a blessing can help lessen this loss.
Whether forgiveness, gratitude, support, celebration, or blessing, you are the only one who can give these gifts from your heart and mind. You will experience the truth of the saying, “The giver gains.”
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Shirley Fessel offers workshops on Writing for Spiritual Development, the Divine Feminine for women from the Christian tradition, and advanced writing, reading and speaking. Shirley is currently developing a workbook for women suffering religious abuse and domestic violence. She is an educator with DivineBalance.org. Visit her website at www.writingresearchtraining.com or email her at Fessup2@msn.com.