Where’s the Joy and Peace?

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

In reading up on the history of Christmas, I found its predecessor was Saturnalia. This doesn’t sound like much fun to me. According to Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural god who ruled the earth when humans enjoyed bounty without labor.Saturnalia

(Picture on right)”John Reinhard Weguelin–The Roman Saturnalia (1884)” by John Reinhard Weguelin – Old painting/drawing. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Celebrating this time, a holiday called Saturnalia was held from December 17 through the 23rd or the 25th. It involved much partying, nakedness, human sacrifice, gambling and drinking according to some sources. There was also gift giving. And some articles linked modern caroling to people being forced to run naked in the streets singing, as something done during Saturnalia.

The Christians, not knowing which theory was true of the actual date Jesus Christ was born, decided to try and tempt the pagans into worshiping Jesus, according to some sources, by tagging a holiday honoring the birth of Christ onto Saturnalia. (Apparently, everyone was gathered for one, why not stay for the other?) December 25th was chosen.

There really was a lot more to this origin of Christmas, and much of it I didn’t like finding out about. I am a Polyanna. I want everything beautiful and peaceful with love floating in the air.

So, since Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, I didn’t want to find out it had less than spotless origins. For while the real reason many celebrate Christmas is pure, I wonder how many are not caught up in the “hustle and bustle” of the season.

christmas meal JPEG

A Christmas meal

“Julemiddag”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julemiddag.jpg#/media/File:Julemiddag.jpg

Buying gifts, sending cards, plays, parties, decorating (we all know the ritual) can take the joy out of the season for some. Stress of having to “do it all” causes loss of sleep and anguish; stress of not being able to “do it at all” because of negative circumstances can cause the same. Then there are those who could “do it all” but have a tragedy or anniversary of a tragedy at this time of year to contend with, so feel doubly sorrowful about such a thing happening at Christmas.

In our minds, everything should be perfect. Two of the most frequently used words during the Christmas season are “joy” and “peace.” And we are so disappointed if we don’t feel those emotions.

I have an angel on top of a miniature Christmas tree. I have been so busy trying to juggle many balls this past couple weeks, which included getting ready for a Christmas and three family birthday celebrations yesterday, I hadn’t really looked at this angel topper as I set the tree on the buffet. But I really noticed her one day. And I laughed.DSCN2580

I imagined this little angel in the same pickle as we earthlings. Harried, hurried and rushing to assist fellow angels to get ready for the big day. And then she had a deadline to be on top my tree, looking like an angel!

Her hair is frizzed out and sticking up as if she ran heavenly fingers through it as she attempted to tear it out. One wing is lower than the other and folded over her shoulder.

Anyone feel that way while dressing their little angels for a Christmas play? Or dressing yourself and wrapping a present for that party with co-workers or friends? Or planning the meal for guests and family? Or stringing outside lights on a cold, windy, December day?

Yet on her face is a serene smile and her eyes are closed, as if she is savoring the joy and peace of the holiday. How does she manage it?

Perhaps by not caring how the holiday originated, but by remembering the reason she celebrates it today, and knowing no matter what happens externally to her or her loved ones, if she hangs on to the real reason that those of us who celebrate Christmas, do celebrate it, there is joy and peace waiting for her and us.

And remembering that reason, even if my hair’s a mess, and life is chaos, I now smile serenely as I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

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27 Responses to Where’s the Joy and Peace?

  1. Wow! What an eye opener this was. I like you choose peace, and joy, however all celebrations have to start some where and some how. I like to think we all take a bit of our ancestry from culture to culture and generation to generation and make it better, or, at least we try to. Hopefully that’s what the good Lord intended when he started this world. After all the one thing he gave to all of us is free will. Like you I will keep to my warm fuzzy feelings about Christmas and I wish you the peace and joy of the season. MERRY CHRISTMAS. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thank you Patricia. I like your thoughts that we all take a bit of our ancestry and improve on it with each generation. I think that happens a lot, and to see when the change is good and embrace it is a blessing too. That’s not always easy. I wish you a blessed and joy-filled Christmas also, and thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. Joe Stephens says:

    Frankly, the last couple of years, I’ve struggled to find joy at Christmas. Okay, truth out, it’s been a long time. When my ex-wife and I were happy, Christmas was a huge deal. We decorated the house inside and out, bought each other lots of gifts, and had a big open house almost every year for family and friends. Without going into all the ugly history of it, I will simply say that’s all gone.

    I do find joy in the spiritual elements of Christmas, though. Our school choir processing into the auditorium singing, “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” and our church choir singing the Christmas cantata fill me with joy that the savior is born.

    But I fear Christmas will never quite have the joy it once had for me.

    Wow. Sorry to open a vein in public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva Bodin says:

      Being a nurse, I can see where opening a vein can lead to healing, so I applaud your transparency. I love that you’re able to find joy in the real things of Christmas, even though the happiness of being able to share that joy has shrunk so badly. You can understand and know all the platitudes of getting over or past something, but the head can’t always tell the heart how to feel. Instead of obliterating sorrow and hurt, I try to let Christmas come alongside those feelings and I can feel them both at the same time. Gives my mind a rest from the bad to the good sometimes. Thanks for sharing, you sound like a terrific guy.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting facts, Neva. I’d never heard any of them before. Like you, I prefer the Christmas I know, although since my illness and all that’s gone with it, I tend to hang on to the old Christmas memories with my sibs and children. I think we’ve all felt a little like your “angel” at times and I love her picture. Thanks for sharing it with us. Now when I’m sad I’ll get tickled about your angel and your comments about her. Merry Christmas Neva!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva Bodin says:

      I had heard Christmas used to be a pagan holiday, but had never researched it any before so I was a bit surprised at some of the stuff I read too! I think we sometimes expect too much of Christmas while expecting too little–too much expecting it to whoosh away all our negative feelings, and too little of realizing what it really means to the world. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Glad you liked the angel. I used to try and smooth her hair down but I’ve decided she looks more genuine this way! May you have a blessed Christmas too!

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  4. Doris says:

    Well said. I don’t get into Christmas, or Thanksgiving (my favorite) that much anymore. Perhaps it’s age, maybe it’s because I try to celebrate the reasons for both year round. Still I did enjoy the post and loved the Angel. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva Bodin says:

      I can understand you’re comment. I didn’t decorate last year, but still celebrated the holiday and it’s reason. I did decorate this year as I felt like it, but donated a lot of Christmas decorations I wasn’t willing to part with before to the thrift stores this year. Age, energy, and I’m not sure what has left me with not needing all the trimmings as much. And i love that you celebrate the reasons for the holidays all year around. That’s the secret to how to be, I think. May you have a blessed Christmas year!

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  5. Neva,
    Have a very Merry Christimas!
    – Stephen

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thank you Stephen! Since we celebrated with our family today, very early, due to travel plans for us later this month, I feel like Christmas is over somewhat, and it was a great day with our two grandchildren and daughters and families. However, I will milk the next two weeks for more Christmas activities by going to community things and listening to Christmas music etc. Thanks for the wish and may you have a very blessed Christmas too!

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  6. Neva, I think this post rings true for a lot of people. I hope you find peace and joy this Christmas season.

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Sometimes I have to remember to feel the peace and joy amidst the other stresses that come up from time to time, but it’s always there waiting for me! Thanks Abbie, and I hope your peace and joy is there in great abundance for you too! Have a blessed Christmas.

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  7. Mike Staton says:

    Good points, Neva. When you break down the word Christmas, you realize it’s ‘Christ’s Mass.’ It never really bothered me that in ancient times when folks were converted from their pagan beliefs to Christianity, pagan holidays evolved into Christian ones. I already knew that Saturnalia was an ancient Roman holiday with lots of debauchery involved. Excluding the human sacrifice, the parts about partying, nakedness, gambling and drinking pretty much describe my weekend life in college when I was 19. Lol.

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      And I’n guessing those college weekends have evolved into something tamer? Ha. You gave me a chuckle. I think I see a parallel there? I hope you have a blessed Christmas, filled with joy, and as much peace as you want. And the same for your friend.

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  8. Love your post, Neva! I had heard of some of the origins of Christmas many years ago, and sometimes I’ve wondered that people focus too much “on the day,” even if it’s for the right reasons, when, like Doris, we should all be peace-filled, kind, compassionate, and loving year-round. And, with all the problems in the world, and in our personal lives, it’s harder (for me anyway) to find that peace and joy. Yet, when I shut out “the problems” and instead focus on “the reason for the season” I am filled with thanksgiving and hope, which is also what we all need. Thank you for a great post!

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thanks Gayle. IT is hard to focus on the real reason we celebrate. We are bombarded with worldly concerns continuously with all the media we are exposed to, from all the “bargains” we can have for Christmas shopping to all the shootings, stabbings, threats of terror etc. And then, like you say, there’s personal stresses and concerns. We want a perfect holiday. Nothing on earth is perfect, only the love that came down at Christmas.

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  9. Nancy Jardine says:

    As a historian I’ve read about Saturnalia, and the earliest Celtic Yuletide traditions, and I’ve long known about how the earliest Christians ‘borrowed’ festivals from the ancients- but they weren’t the first to do this borrowing or amalgamation of festivals, by any means. The Ancient Romans were experts at amalgamating their deities and festivals with those of their subjected peoples. I’m not religious, but the thing I like about the Christmas season and its traditions, is that it focuses on giving happiness to family members- generallly the children – at a specific time of the year that can be dreary in my neck of the woods (i.e. winter).

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      You’re right Nancy, it comes at a great time, a break in the winter for many of us. For me it brings something to look forward to and brings me joy too in the middle of what could be a long winter season. Plus it is a reason for school kids to have a vacation for a bit!

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  10. Wranglers says:

    I try to focus on the season. I knew about the Pagan origin, most Christian Holidays were once pagan, just like us, and converted to Christianity.

    I don’t do as much now that my kids and even my grandkids are grown. I decorate a little (most people still think I have a lot), but I keep downsizing and this year is going down to the bare threads.

    I will volunteer to help sort the Angel Tree gifts and the toy and food distribution from The Salvation Army.
    Mostly if I can be with family I’m happy. Christmas is still a grand holiday. Cher’ley

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      I think cutting down on decorating happens to many of us when the kids get older. It’s fun and has its season too. But I think of it as fluff anyway in relation to the reason for Christmas. Love the angel trees this time of year. Good for you for volunteering. You are a generous lady.

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  11. Wranglers says:

    Love the photos, when I saw your angel, I thought–she looks like how I feel sometimes at Christmas time. Cher’ley

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  12. I’m not like most people as I, unfortunately, grew up dreading the holidays. I was an only child, as I mentioned in previous comments, and had two parents who didn’t make a big deal about Christmas. I learned to celebrate (open gifts, etc.) by myself. When they divorced, I was schlepped to different homes to celebrate Christmas, whomever my mother happened to be dating at the time. I hated it since I knew no one and I wasn’t used to loud big families so I was always terrified and overwhelmed. Over the years, I tried to fit in and enjoy big family celebrations with boyfriends/husband (now ex) but I was always extremely uncomfortable. Now I have quiet holidays at home with my dog and it’s exactly what I like. I spend Christmas Day with my mom and stepdad and talk to my dad on Skype. I may not always want this, but for now, I’m enjoying the peace. Thanks for the post, Neva, and happy holidays to you!

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      It’s great, and I bet it’s been a hard journey, that you’ve found your peace on Christmas. I sometimes think we are encouraged to make too much of it in the wrong way, and that leads to disappointment. Not the way the person whose birthday we celebrate would want it. And yet how fun, when it becomes a big celebration too. My husband still gets nervous over holidays, as he did as a child, he was often sick from anxiety, and he turns 72 today. It’s a hard thing to change what we internalized as children I think. I loved the holidays as it was a day when there wasn’t tension in the home. I hope you have a great Christmas this year and I’ll be thinking of you and everyone else too. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. S J Brown says:

    I think sometimes we all look a bit like your angel. As for the history behind the holiday I am glad it has been modified a bit and running through the streets naked is no longer part of the tradition.

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  14. Neva Bodin says:

    Me too. Although I read of some guy out doing something in another state lately wearing only boots and a smile. But I think we could modify some of the commercialism out but otherwise, I’m glad much of the rest is gone too. Thanks for commenting.

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  15. katewyland says:

    I’ve always loved Christmas. My mom made a big deal of it – sometimes too big and stressful. She’d grown up poor and loved being able to give gifts. Always wanted the grandkids to open their gifts at her house, which sometimes proved a problem.

    I enjoyed it the most when the kids were around. Loved decorating–have lots of Father Christmases. The last few years the decorations have kind of gone to waste. Fewer get togethers with family or friends. Next year I may just plan a big Christmas Open House. I miss the parties.

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      It’s true as the kids grow, Christmas celebrations get modified. So we find new traditions, maybe like your open house idea. Would love to see your Father Christmases. Bet they are super. I have a small collection of Santas. My neighbor has a bigger collection and I have one waiting under the tree to give her. God bless your mom! Bet she got a lot of joy out of giving.

      Liked by 1 person

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