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The True Meaning of Christmas

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Take time to give back this holiday season.

businessdec2016The holiday season brings out the best in us — or the worst. It can be a relaxing time off for some and a stress-inducing week for others. Nonetheless, it is a time we all look forward to. Schools close for break; businesses mosey along towards the New Year; families take vacations; and people everywhere gather in good spirits to celebrate the holidays. While we imagine this time as one of goodwill and merriment, many have dismissed the traditional festivities having lost sight of its true meaning.

Christmas has strayed far from its customary celebration. Today, many view Christmas as the superficial holiday representative of our 21st Century society, one that is obsessed with presents, money, materialism and celebrities. Children hear the tale of Santa Claus and his magical delivery of presents, and they become enthralled with receiving the gifts of their dreams. Parents and families mob malls and department stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, to get the best deals and discounts retailers offer for their holiday items. The gift getting does not stop there. Cyber Monday, which occurs the Monday after Black Friday, is now a worldwide event in which online retailers offer their own deep discounts. Getting into the Christmas spirit no longer involves caroling, but instead revolves around shopping.

Unfortunately, we have become socialized to associate these things with Christmas, and we often forget the true meaning of the holiday. Religion has taken a backseat to the messages we see in advertisements on TV and social media. Once a time to get together with family for food and laughter, Christmas has become a time to get the best deals on your favorite scarves, coats and Santa-branded socks. What Christmas desperately needs is a reason (other than for gifts) to celebrate.

The true meaning of Christmas is to cheer people up with laughter and love. It is about turning a cold winter into a warm party by making lots of food for friends and family, being kind to each other and helping those in need. This holiday, like all holidays, should be dedicated to creating happy, lifelong memories with all those you are close with — your neighbor, your sister, the cashier at your local convenience store. Showing love and kindness should be an objective every day, but our hectic lives sometime distract us from these simple goals. For this reason, it is important to devote a day like Christmas to expressing compassion for others. Make this Christmas a holiday of joy; forget about the gifts and appreciate all the people who make your life merrier.

Instilling values like this in your children can go a long way. Teach them the benefits of philanthropy and charity. Bring them to a local non-profit organization to donate their time, toys, clothes, money, food and more to less fortunate children and adults. The only way to overcome the stigma of children being spoiled during Christmas is to show them how important it is to give back to the community.

This holiday season, take time to reflect. Embrace the love of your family and the spirit that comes with the holidays. When shopping for gifts for the family, do not spoil them and get them everything they ask for. Real life does not work like that. If you have children with birthdays before Christmas, consider rewrapping gifts and letting the children open one at a time. They say patience is a virtue, and children should learn to play with one toy at a time and appreciate the gift as well as the giver. Be thoughtful and compassionate, and make sure children know that however much they receive on Christmas Day, they must also give back the same amount. This is a time of year we should all come together to rejoice in our blessings and to help those less fortunate. Family, charity and love. This is what Christmas is really about.

*The Fab Four Charities Making a Difference*

Take time out of your holiday season to donate time and money to those in need. These four charities make a huge difference for many lives, and I encourage you to spend time in the community this winter.

1. Frank Shankwitz co-founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980 after making a dying boy’s dream come true. Shankwitz has dedicated the past 35 years of his life to helping others and making wishes come true.

2. Every year, The Eric Trump Foundation provides millions of dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help children fight life-threatening diseases.

3. Bridge House | Grace House focuses on drug and alcohol rehabilitation for the New Orleans community. By offering affordable, and often free, rehab programs, the organization saves countless people from a life of addiction.

4. Chris Beary is a lifelong resident and professional in New Orleans. He realized we could do more as a city to help empower our homeless population, and he set out to do just that. Beary founded Grace at the Greenlight to supply the homeless community with a variety of basic necessities and to connect them with family across the country.