Keeping the True Meaning of the Holiday Season

Keeping the True Meaning of the Holiday Season

It's not about getting the present, it's about being present in the moment of celebration.

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The holiday season most would say is the greatest time of the year. Students are off from school, people are out and about making the most of their favorite stores' holiday sales and it seems as if everyone, in general, is in an uplifting and enthusiastic mood for the approaching time off and celebration.

Everything about the holiday season is enjoyable, but to make the most of it really includes staying true to its original meaning. It's evident that in contemporary society Christmas and other holiday celebrations have been largely influenced by Western consumer culture. The holiday season has certainly turned into a business, in which there is a greater emphasis on what one buys for the other and what one receives.

While the practice of gift giving is definitely not problematic, it shouldn't be seen as the quintessence of the holiday season. Just think about Black Friday. It occurs on the day right after Thanksgiving, a celebration that is meant to bring families together and be a time where people can enjoy themselves and their loved ones. People working in retail stores don't get to share in the full experience of the holiday since they have to go to their shift and prepare for the chaotic commotion that is Black Friday.

The videos that show people absolutely destroying everyone and everything in their path for a new flat screen TV are, albeit funny, the most accurate representation of a Christmas that has lost its meaning. Despite what one may celebrate, it is important to consider that the essence of the holiday season transcends any video game, lip kit or car one may get.

When you come to think of it, it is essentially the process of getting ready for the holidays and the celebration itself that constitute the spirit of the season. Helping a family member or friend with setting up the Christmas tree, for example, is living in the spirit of the holiday because it is the time, effort and the memory that is being shared at the moment that matters most. Spending time with family and friends by partaking in holiday festivities and enjoying each other's presence is what the holidays are all about.

It shouldn't be about just anticipating Christmas day and wondering what kind of gifts you'll get. It should be about getting to spend every single moment with people you care about and being grateful for it. Ultimately, that has been and is what Christmas is known to be universally.

It is a time of love, care, joy, and gratitude and although this can be shown by gift giving, it's not the gift itself that has value, it is the thought, meaning, and sentiment behind the gift that is valuable.

While all of this has been repeated and is something that we've heard before and know to be true, sometimes we lose sight of it and just see the holiday season as a way to do what we want and get what we want.

To truly make the most of the holiday season, put down your phone, temporarily avoid some of your responsibilities and don't focus on which gifts from your Christmas list you'll get. Instead, live presently, spend time with those you love and enjoy every moment of it.

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Here's Why You Shouldn't Donate to The Salvation Army This Holiday Season (Or Ever)

No, I’m not a grinch or a scrooge. I’m just a member of the LGBT+ community that is tired of seeing my community suffer at the hands of organizations that are supposed to help us.
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The holiday season is upon us, bringing mall Santas, twinkling lights, and the well-known bell ringers with their red buckets stationed outside busy department stores. The Salvation Army is a mainstay in the memories of our childhood holidays. I remember a number of years where my parents would give each of my sisters and I a handful of change to put in the shiny red bucket as we walked into Wal-Mart to shop for our family Christmas dinner. On the surface, the Salvation Army is an organization with good intentions of helping the less fortunate, especially during the holiday season. However, a quick Google search exposes the organization’s discriminatory practices.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian denomination and an international charitable organization. Their mission statement, as stated on their website, reads: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Despite their insistence of nondiscriminatory practices, however, there have been several instances of discrimination, specifically against members of the LGBT+ community. In July 2017, a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, New York, was found by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) to be discriminating. Three other centers in New York City were also cited as being discriminatory. Violations within the four centers included refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants, assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity, unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery, and segregating transgender patients into separate rooms. The NYCCHR had been tipped off about the mistreatment, and testers from the commission went to the cited centers and found clear evidence of the mistreatment. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”

This isn’t the first time the Salvation Army has discriminated specifically against transgender people. In 2014, a transgender woman from Paris, Texas fled her home due to death threats she received related to her gender identity. The police told her, “Being the way you are, you should expect that.” She went to Dallas and found emergency shelter at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, run by the Salvation Army. The emergency shelter allowed her to stay for 30 days. Towards the end of her 30-day stay, she began looking for other long-term shelter options. One option many of the other women staying in the shelter had recently entered was a two-year housing program also run by the Salvation Army. When the woman interviewed for the program, she was told she was disqualified for the program because she had not had gender reassignment surgery. The counselor for the program later claimed there was a waiting list, but it came out that two women who arrived at the emergency shelter after the transgender woman had already entered the program. The transgender woman filed a complaint with Dallas’s Fair Housing Office, which protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She was able to find other housing through the Shared Housing Project, a project that aims to find transgender people with housing who are willing to support those without.

The Salvation Army’s Christian affiliation drives the organization’s statements and beliefs. The church has a page on its website dedicated to its decided stance on the LGBT+ community that seems to paint a nice picture. Their actions, however, tell a different story. There have been several accounts reporting the Salvation Army’s refusal of service to LGBT+ people unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services “open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.” The church claims it holds a “positive view of human sexuality,” but then clarifies that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.” This belief extends to their staff, asking LGBT+ employees to renounce their beliefs and essentially their identity in order to align with the organization. The Salvation Army believes that “The theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality.” Essentially, gay people can’t get married. Unmarried people can’t have sex. Therefore, gay people are forbidden from being intimate with one another. This is unfair to ask of any employee, especially considering that one’s relationship status does not interfere with how well anyone can do their job.

If you are still looking to donate to a non-homophobic and transphobic organization this holiday season, here are some great pro-LGBT+ organizations with outreach similar to that of the Salvation Army:

  • Doctors Without Borders: medical and emergency relief
  • Habitat for Humanity: homelessness and housing
  • Local homeless shelters: search the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website for shelters near you!
  • Local food bank: find your local food bank through Feeding America here.
  • The Trevor Project: a leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT+ young people ages 13-24.
Cover Image Credit: Ed Glen Today

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I Stopped Maintaining My Hair Because I Could Barely Maintain My Life

Mental health and natural hair matter.

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When I big chopped my hair in May of 2018, I thought that I would become what would be comparable to a chia pet. I aspired for my damaged, kinky 4C type hair to depart from me to make way for manageable coiled locks that would grow fuller and healthier at a faster rate. That day in the salon was one I will never forget. Looking in the mirror at my new tapered cut made me feel genuinely beautiful. I could see me and not the hair that I tried to hide my identity with. With the knowledge of new hair products and routines, I felt confidence in beginning my hair growth journey.

The first few months after, I noticed that my hair was thicker and had become more manageable. My new routines were paying off. Diligently applying oils and masks had helped me see results. Having shorter hair was a different but liberating experience. It was going all smooth until I got to the awkward phase. I spent hours watching YouTube videos to attempt various styles but the influencer's hair was either too long or short and never awkwardly in between as my hair was.

Later on in the year, my journey came to a halt. I was in between jobs, could barely afford to pay rent and would skip class to go to work because I needed to pay bills and rent. I was a mess and so was my hair. I stopped doing weekly conditioning routines and would let my hair matt up and not detangle properly because I was often in a rush. My anxiety caused me to twist pieces of my hair at high points of stress. I would wear wigs and attempt protective styles to prevent this but still neglected to treat the hair that was underneath. I stopped maintaining my hair because I could barely maintain myself in this hectic period of my life.


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Seeing the film Nappily Ever After made me resonate with the fact that this is a common occurrence in the natural hair community. Saana Lathan portrayed a woman, Violet who used her hair as her sole identity. She displayed how she hid the damage to her natural hair to live a life for others and not herself. It wasn't until she cut her dry, damaged hair that she had she had truly blossomed into the graceful women she truly is.

Natural hair and mental health go hand in hand. Growth can be inhibited by mental health and that goes for many aspects; hair is just one of them. If one takes care of their mental health, they feel more inclined to nourish their roots as well. This is why self-care matters in the black community.

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