When I was thirteen years old, my older sister got asked out for a Christmas dance held at our local parish. It was an exciting event for us all, with the first teenager of the family (she was 16) stepping into the new and unfamiliar world of going for dances, dates and romance in general. I still remember the young man coming to pick her up from my grandparents’ home where the rest of the family was doing the usual family Christmas. He wore a silver shirt, had an earring (yes, that was cool back in 1999) and brought her a bouquet of red roses with lady’s lace (that’s a kind of flower). We swooned, and I promised myself that one day I too would be asked out to a Christmas dance and it would just as dramatic and exciting. My post-school future seemed filled with potential.
Well, that never happened. When I was sixteen, no one asked me out, the guys in my life were either too shy to ask or were deterred by the fact that they couldn’t take a girl to a dance on a bicycle which was the only mode of transportation they had in junior college. I spent several Christmases sulking because I had still never got asked to a dance. Over the years, there was always something or the other to be disappointed by during Christmas. It was usually related to my social life, the parties that we organized or were invited to. The question was always – what are we doing for Christmas?
I remember the year that changed. The question came up again, and this time I thought - What about all the other people who don’t belong to the cool world of social events? What do THEY do for Christmas? Probably stay at home and feel left out too. That year I decided to organize my own party for people who didn’t have anything else to do for Christmas. It was fun! We played games, ate leftover Christmas lunch, and enjoyed each other’s company.
Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was my deepening Christian faith. But I finally began to ask better questions, and desire better things. As long as I was chasing my own pleasure, I just couldn’t ‘get no satisfaction’. But joy is deeper than pleasure, and I began to find it when I asked for and expected different things.
Over this last decade of Christmases I have had many, many special moments of joy. But many of them were things I probably wouldn’t have imagined being enough when I was thirteen. I stopped going to parties for the most part, and hung out with family a lot more. I had cozy evenings in, sipping Bailey’s and watching movies. I had the joy of coming up with fun gifts for my family members, and the very, very special joy of seeing Christmas through my little nieces’ eyes. One year my sister and I became ‘Secret Angels’ who dropped off cookies at people’s homes without them seeing us.
This Christmas I invited over a few kids from the school I serve with to make Christmas sweets with me for their families since their mums are maids and are even busier during Christmas. On Christmas day I visited an Adoration chapel to spend time with the Birthday Boy. I spent time just hanging out with the people I love. This Christmas was extra special because I got to spend a lot of time with a new and important man in my life.
My Christmases have become slower and less glamorous, but richer and deeper. In Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.”
Some people already know this secret. I am still learning it. But it just takes that one moment when you step back and ask yourself – ‘What am I chasing? And is it really worth it?” Maybe we all need to make some changes to our Christmas wish list.
Are You Going to a Christmas Dance?
Five Christmas Gifts- Stories of Hope
Eight Tips to Surviving Christmas
Christmas Highlights - 2013
7 Christmas Quick Takes - 2014
7 Christmas Quick Takes - 2015