Christmas Light Can Be a Cruel Light

11/22/2010 06:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Valerie Sobel Founder and president of the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation

Christmas light can be a cruel light... to some. I see the holidays from the perspective of one without an intact family. Having lost my child, my mother and husband in one year opened my eyes to the multitude of merrymakers who would rather flip the calendar forward from November 26 to January 2.

Needless to say, the holidays bring up many feelings: some happy but some unnecessarily sad.

There are endless reasons why the holidays are not for everyone, yet we fill the airwaves with sounds and images of joy, as if those people did not exist in large numbers. The ones in hospitals, the just divorced, the ones without jobs, the ones widowed or orphaned, the ones poor or lonely or those living lives without an exit sign. Imagine for a moment the many who feel left out, but put on brave faces not to spoil our fun. Before you go on auto pilot and get drenched in the holiday spirit, I invite you to peek at the hype through a different lens.

Holidays have us turn on the faucet of celebration with regularity, year around, and their liberating perspective can be useful. We start the New Year with a party that better be jolly, followed by Valentine's Day, when we love and give chocolate (never mind the unloved ones). Mother's Day disregards those without mothers, and on Thanksgiving it's okay to overeat. Christmas, of course, sends us into a special tizzy.

Birthdays must not be forgotten though, at times, the birthday girl and boy, as well as the "bystanders," would love to. And we stand at the ready to be appropriate at anniversaries: to proudly acknowledge on a wedding anniversary that one is still married and ready to be sad on the day when a loved one died. Why not a day before or a day after? Why do we buy into emotion that have been decided for us before our age of reason? Simply because it's the thing to do?

Hallmark is, of course, serenely smiling through all of it and in the name of tradition we rarely question any of it. Rituals gently hold the fabric of our lives, and each year we work up enthusiasm for the season to be jolly or practice sadness because it's the right time.

Underneath the tinsel lies the real tinsel of commercial interest. Some of this is as it should be, but remember that it takes a year to work up enthusiasm for the cycle to begin again. It retains its freshness only because all of it thankfully comes around only every 12 months. The buying and the receiving of gifts that most of us can do without, the throwing away of the wrapping paper that in each household amounts to killing a small forest. Alongside the trash goes our time and money and the ink that stained the gift paper with images of X-mas trees, angels and Santa Claus.

I love the irreverent holiday poem of De Vries:

There's talk of saving room for pie;

Grandma discusses her neuralgia.

I long for time to pass so I

Can think of all of this with nostalgia.

Forgive this humbug and "boo hoo" reality check on my part, and accept my heartfelt good wishes for a holiday season that has a bit of everything, most importantly, love.