How are your holidays going? I first resisted the idea of decorating my condo. What’s the use I asked myself? As Jack Kornfield said on a recent episode of Casual Buddhism, “Right now the world is having a really hard time with the pandemic, climate change, and things we really need to pay attention to.” I admit that the recent rise of Omicron definitely but a damper on my holiday spirit.
But I decided, if not now when? I searched my storage area for the Christmas ornaments box and put up a string of lights alongside my window that looks out over the San Francisco Bay. As I surveyed the sparkling lights a sense of joy bubbled up in me. I pulled out the musical Snoopy doll that my son adored as a young child. I asked myself, what do the holidays mean to me, and how do I want to celebrate?
For many of us, our joyful holiday memories stem from childhood. When I was five my mother really got into the Christmas spirit even though we are Jewish. She put up a tree, and we put out milk and cookies for Santa by the chimney. I went to bed so excited I could hardly sleep. In the morning I woke up and ran to open my presents—a Tiny Tears doll, a small stove with pretend baking supplies, and a large brown Teddy Bear with soulful eyes. I remember that Christmas well because I was really happy.
Another memory I had was the latke parties we celebrated with other Jewish friends. The kids got to cook their own latkes and compete for who could make the biggest one. That got me thinking, why don’t I have a latke party and invite my family and closest friends? I researched non-traditional recipes that included sweet potato, zucchini, and beet latkes, and planned the event. Everyone has to cook at least two latkes and we’ll gather at the table once everyone arrives.
That’s when I realized what the holidays mean to me—joy family and friends. Cultivating joy is an inside job and happiness starts with me. As Jack said, “We really need joy in the world right now. There’s a joyful spirit in the Buddhist teachings which says live in joy even among those who hate and are sick. How will you cultivate joy? What are your holiday plans and how are you going to celebrate this year?