Create Your Own Meaning for the Holidays

The "true meaning" of the holidays is what you make it.

Posted Dec 14, 2014

“I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell

The holiday season is upon us!

And by “the holiday season,” I’m including not just Christmas but all the other traditional holidays—Hanukkah, Kwanza, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Yaldi, etc—celebrated at this time of year. Heck, even if your holiday of choice is Black Friday! 

My question is, what is “the true meaning” of the holiday season?

Maybe your answer comes from your religious tradition: “It’s to celebrate the god of beginnings, Ganesha” or “It’s to celebrate the birth of the son of God, Jesus Christ.” Maybe you connect the holidays with “the banishing of winter darkness through the light.” 

Or maybe you learned the “true meaning” of the season from more secular sources. In everything from Good Housekeeping to Coca Cola commercials, you’ll hear that it’s about loving mankind, generosity, goodwill and peace on earth. Even musicians like TobyMac weigh in on this “true meaning” issue: “I think Christmas is about celebration and come on, on the inside everyone wants to dance!” 

Or maybe you’ve taken a more cynical approach to the season, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol: “Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man's pockets!”

As far as I’m concerned, all of those meanings are valid. It may sound blasphemous, but I don’t think any of these meanings is wrong or right, more “true” or less “true.”

See, I don’t believe that the holiday season has its own specific, intrinsic, unalterable meaning. It only has the meaning that we give to it. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, said, “The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.”

For me, the important question is: What is the true meaning of the holiday season for you? And is your “true meaning” empowering you and getting you what you want?

Our own meaning may or may not agree with what we’ve been told in places of worship or heard on Ellen. But whatever meaning we’ve adopted will shape our experience. So how’s it working out for you?

If it isn’t, as my students in the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) I teach know, you can always choose to adopt a different meaning (or belief) that serves you better.

Let me give you an example: What if you were brought up to believe that the true meaning of the season is to “give to those less fortunate?” And so you spent holidays serving in soup kitchens and bagging clothes for homeless centers. Most folks would see that as admirable, right? But what if in doing this, you felt more resentment than generosity—then felt guilty for feeling that resentment! How much joy are you getting—or even really giving to others—based on that “true meaning?”

What if you modified that meaning to be something like, “the opportunity to show more love to others and myself?” Wouldn’t that feel different? Would you do things that might bring you more satisfaction and pleasure? Would you approach all of your activities in a new frame of mind? And if you made the choice to serve in a soup kitchen based on that meaning, you’d probably really enjoy the experience a lot more, wouldn’t you?

As you sing those carols or light the menorah, I invite you to create a “true meaning” of this holiday season that will make you feel more alive, enrich your life and support who you are becoming.

“Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”

Tony Robbins

Until next time. . .

Mahalo!

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About the Author: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis. To learn more about NLP and MER check out our new Integrative NLP Practitioner Certification® Training.