Why we celebrate

Despite the stress, the holiday season is a wonderful time for rediscovering what’s really important

The Christmas season as Americans once knew it lasted from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. That was many years ago, before the phenomenon of “Christmas creep,” and now it’s called the holiday season, lasts from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, and includes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, not to mention Black Friday. It has become, for all practical purposes, both a winter season of thanksgiving, feasting, gift-giving and resting, and the peak season for the retail sector.

It is also, medical authorities tell us, the worst time of year health-wise. Americans on average gain a pound during the holidays, weight that is not lost during the rest of the year, contributing to the growing rate of obesity. It is also the most stressful time of year and a risk factor for cardiac (and noncardiac) mortality.

You gotta love this ironic stretch, and we do—with good cause. Because when all the shopping and cooking and traveling are done, it’s a wonderful time for stepping outside our work-a-day lives to spend restful time with our families and friends, to show our love and appreciation for them, and to refresh ourselves in preparation for the new year and what lies ahead.

The word “holiday” means, of course, “holy day,” but one doesn’t have to be a religious person to see the wonder and beauty in the world. Now is a time for all of us to forget, at least for a while, the problems we face as individuals, societies and collectively as people on this little planet. Taking care of the earth begins with taking care of ourselves and those we love, which is why we celebrate the holiday season.

The CN&R’s advice? Watch what you eat, go for walks, recycle all that trash and have the happiest of holidays.