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December has for centuries been a time of celebration in honor of the rebirth that follows the darkest days of winter. The occasion of Hanukkah and the advent of Christianity transformed this month into one of special focus. As this period of celebration has grown, it is now often accompanied by extravagance and stress that easily overshadow our desire to enjoy this time of year.
The results often include frazzled nerves, strained budgets, fatigue from overflowing social calendars and a general sense of disappointment if big holiday expectations are not met. In the end, many of us wind up feeling guilty or sad because we just want to ‘get it over with.’
It can help us contend with the stress if we, even momentarily, jump off the holiday merry-go-round long enough to focus on those things that we know will make our time with friends and family more meaningful, gentle and full of joy. I look forward to hearing this month’s feature story – Really HAPPY Holidays – will assist you in finding greater joy during this season of celebration.
Recent quotes from Coach Joyce K. Reynolds have appeared in The Wall Street Journal; USA Today; CareerJournal.com; Chicago Tribune; American Airlines Magazine, The American Way; Microsoft's bcentral.com; Cosmopolitan; Working Mother Magazine; Learning/Discovery Channel/tlc.com; Sun-Sentinel, Glamour.
Whether its Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza or another December holiday, this gift-giving, celebration time presents plenty of opportunity for both joy and stress. Starting with the mid-summer arrival of the first catalogs, we are presented with the idea of making the holidays extravagant, perfect and harmonious. Unfortunately, by their arrival, many of us are bone-weary from unreasonable schedules, worried about successfully managing family and friends, tired of fighting our way through crowded stores and feeling financially overextended by the whole affair. Just plain light years away from a festive mood.
If you've already gotten there, here are a few suggestions that may help you return to the joyful intent of the season:
1. Remember What The Season 'Tis For.
2. Ascertain a Comfort Level.
3. Consider the Consequences.
4. Make Time for Self-Forgetting.
5. Know What's Too Much of a Good Thing.
6. Beware of High Expectations.
7. Avoid Emotional Landmines.
8. Help Heal a Few Hearts.
9. Prepare for Things to Go Awry.
10. Celebrate the Joie de Vivre.
Winter Solstice, usually December 21, is the longest night of the year. It marks the beginning of winter and marks the turning of the year when the days start getting longer again and the earth heads back toward spring. In older times, when lives were more dependent on the cycles of nature and agriculture, this was celebrated as the rebirth of the mighty Sun, the Lord of Light. In celebration of light and rebirth, the Winter Solstice also coincides with major holidays for many creating a universal time for spiritual awareness and celebration.
Marianne Williamson captured the essence of all spirituality in Illuminata
"How beautiful the world will be when we have mystically journeyed
back up to the light. When all lower thought has been transformed into
its highest possibility, when all human energies have been freed from
the tyranny of fear, how light we will be, how released we will feel.
And the time is now: We can accept the future in the present moment. The
Jews say the Messiah is coming; the Christians say the Messiah has been
here; Einstein said that there is no time. The truth is, the Messiah is
within. It doesn't matter what we call it or how we frame it. All that
matters is that we claim our inheritance, the power of God to heal and
redeem us. Forget the language. Just build a new world."
The Feast of Dedication
The story of a miracle that took place in Palestine over 2100 years ago, tells of the tyrant Antiochus the Syrian, who hated all nations other than his own. And he vowed to destroy all faiths as he conquered many nations but the Jews resisted. He tried to force them to give up their God and their sacred books. He befouled their temple in Jerusalem and ordered all the holy books burned as well as those who studied them. A man named Mattathias lived in Palestine with his five sons. When Antiochus' men came to Mattathias' village of Modin, demanding the people make sacrifices to idols and threatening death to those who didn't, Mattathias killed them. He then cried out in a mighty voice to people: "Mi Komocho Be-Elohim, Adonoi!" - Who compares with you among the gods, O Lord!. The first letter of each word in this phrase in Hebrew (MKBEA) is pronounced "Maccabee." Thus, the name was given to the followers of Mattathias and his sons. The Maccabees hid for many years in the mountains and attacked Antiochus' men. When Mattathias died, his son Judas took over as leader and after seven hard years of fighting, he won a number of victories and finally he and his followers returned to Jerusalem.
Judas was determined to cleanse the temple and rededicate it to the one
true God. When the cleansing was completed and the time came to kindle
the eternal light in the Temple lamp, they discovered there was only a
small cruet of sanctified oil, enough for a single night. Eight days were
required to prepare fresh consecrated oil and there were eight cups in
the Temple lamp, called the Menorah, and one had to be lit each night.
To the surprise of Judas and all the people, the oil miraculously lasted
throughout the eight days. And every year, since that first celebration,
Jews gather in their homes to light the Hanukkah lamp and praise the Lord
for delivering them out of the hands of a mighty and wicked host.
The Festival of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a 7-day, non-religious celebration founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, during which African Americans celebrate and reflect upon their rich heritage. Derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means ‘first fruits,’ Kwanzaa is rooted in the harvest celebrations practiced in various cultures in Africa. The holiday seeks to enforce a connectedness to African cultural identity, provide a focal point for the gathering of African peoples and to reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles, that have sustained Africans. These include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Africans and African-Americans of all religious faiths and backgrounds practice Kwanzaa beginning December 26 through January 1.
Each evening a family member, usually the youngest child, lights candles in a special candleholder and discusses one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. No celebration is complete without Karamu, the ceremonial feast that traditionally takes place on December 31. The essential spirit of this feast is Umoja which means unity, as expressed by the gathering of the family and community to celebrate history, culture and the upcoming new year.
The development of Kwanzaa assumed a reassessment, reclaiming, recommitment,
remembrance, retrieval, resumption, resurrection and rejuvenation of the
Way of Life principles recognized by African-Americans. Today, Kwanzaa
is recognized by millions throughout America and the world. It is celebrated
often in community settings provided by homes, churches, mosques, temples,
community centers, schools, and places of work.
The Spirit of Christmas
The word Christmas comes from the old English "Cristes maesse"
meaning Christ's Mass. The holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
The actual birthday of Jesus is not known, therefore, the early church fathers
in the 4th century fixed the day around the old Roman Saturnalia festival
traditionally celebrated between December 17 and 21. The first mention of
the birthday of Jesus is from the year 354 AD. Gradually all Christian churches,
except Armenians who celebrate Christmas on January 6, the date of the baptism
of Jesus as well as the day of the three Magi, accepted the date of December
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