With a few simple acts, we can turn the season into a genuinely spiritual time.
Q: How can I make the holidays more meaningful for me and my family?
A: Here are my ten suggestions:
1. Practice generosity in the form of donating, gift-giving, volunteering, and reaching out by making phone calls and writing. This cultivates cheerfulness and the spirit of giving and doesn’t require or foster overindulgence in consumerism.
2. Share a prayer or inspirational poem or quote with someone.
3. Give yourself a gift, whether material or a gift of time and space for some reflection, noble silence, and solitude.
4. Make group meals and holiday decorating more meaningful. Share prayers or a moment of silence at the table. Or go around a circle and have each person reflect on what has changed in the past year. If decorating a tree or some other part of the home, reflect on what transitions have taken place since you and your family or friends last performed this ritual. Have someone different offer a prayer each year.
5. Research and contemplate the meaning of the particular holiday and season and its relationship to your locale and environment. For instance, how was harvest time historically marked in your part of the country?
6. Connect with someone you have difficulty relating to. For example, find some common ground to talk about with a family member you usually have trouble with at holiday gatherings.
7. Do some charity work. Serve food at a shelter, provide food or clothing for those in need, make hospital visits, or visit the elderly or shut-ins.
8. Winnow down your Christmas card and gift lists, as well as your list of obligations. Simplify your holiday scheduling, emphasizing quality time and connectedness rather than quantity of experiences.
9. Share some form of spiritual practice with others, including mates, children, loved ones, or friends and kindred spirits (listening to sacred music, or practicing together some form of group prayer, meditation, pilgrimage, caroling, volunteering, a project to help protect the environment, etc.).
10. Do inspirational reading and watch spiritual videos, movies, or plays. Some of my favorites, which I actually own and share with friends, include “Little Buddha,” “Kundun,” “Gandhi,” “Greatest Story Ever Told,” and “Sister Wendy in Conversation With Bill Moyers.” I also like to read the gospels at Christmas time.