Finding your way home on Christmas Day is a feeling too many share

Home on Christmas Day. That means so many different things to different people.

Throughout the month of December, constant reminders of the holidays captivate our senses. We marvel at the sight of twinkling lights intertwined on festive decorations, salivate at the smell of freshly baked gingerbread men lined like toy soldiers on cookie sheets, and hum along to the sound of holiday tunes joyfully playing in the background. For me, the sounds of the season have always been my favorite.

As a young child, I remember listening to songs about a magical snowman with a corncob pipe and a button nose, and wondering if it really was fun to ride in a one horse open sleigh. But as an adult, I find myself drawn to musical themes which many times parallel the realities of life during this time of year.

One example came to me last December, while driving on a roadway lightly covered with the season’s first snowfall. The song was “Home On Christmas Day” – penned by talented songwriters Jay Landers and Walter Afanasieff and sung beautifully by Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth. With a haunting orchestration and lyrics overflowing with poignancy, the song navigates you through the often painful reality of celebrating the holidays after the death of someone you love. From the song:

And now I promise you,
With all my heart this Christmas
That all the love we shared,
Will never go away
Your spirit’s everywhere,
And I hope you know
That you are always here,
Home on Christmas day

“Home” amplifies what this writer believes the true meaning of the holidays should be – a celebration of the lives we are so fortunate to be surrounded with not just on Christmas Day but each and every day.

A painful reality of life is that no one is spared the grief and heartache of losing someone we care for deeply. The holiday season seems to exemplify that feeling of loss as we remember the traditions, the laughter and the love those cherished individuals once brought to our lives. It’s a place in our hearts which can never be filled by material possessions eliciting a temporary feeling of happiness – regardless of how hard many of us continue to try.

For years I’ve protested the over-the-top gift giving our society supports as an integral part of the Christmas season. We assume that “gifts” are only comprised of tangible items one can hold in their hands and assign status and value to. But for anyone whose heart aches over a noticeable absence during this time of year, they would probably relinquish all their worldly possessions just to spend one more day with someone who remains alive and well only in their hearts.

For parents it can be a daunting task trying to convince their young children that boxes filled with toys and wrapped in colorful paper are not an essential part of the holiday season. Advertisers and retailers have shamefully commercialized the holidays – creating a society which has adopted the notion that material gift giving is always expected.

But one tale has been teaching adults and children alike an invaluable lesson since it was first introduce back in 1957 – “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Suess.

I remember reading the book and watching the animated cartoon as a child, but my lack of experience in the world prevented me from seeing just how vital its message truly was. Towards the end of the tale the narrator proclaims, “Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

The holidays are a time for celebrating and remembering. As Dr. Suess’ story has been teaching generations, the fanfare and the gifts are simply irrelevant; it’s the amazing people you find yourself surrounded with who provide us with the greatest gifts.

Maybe one day we’ll all come to the realization that those individuals whose “presence” we often take for granted are the only “presents” that really matter in life. Only then will the true meaning of the holidays find its way home on Christmas Day.