The Mountain Times

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Holiday lessons from classic tales and traditions

Let's celebrate; it's the holidays! A time with family and friends and lots of traditions, whether you identify most closely with the Christian traditions of Christmas, the Jewish Hanukkah rituals, Kwanzaa celebrations, the Pagan festivals surrounding the winter solstice or simply the commercialized characters that dominate children's stories. Candles are lit, songs are sung, presents are exchanged and there is a sense of magic and mystery that has pervaded this time of year through the millennium.

Kids are bursting with energy and anticipation. Families look forward to their own unique traditions and reunions. Everyone seems to be infected with holiday cheer. I dream about past celebrations and the good times shared when everyone put aside differences and difficulties and just enjoyed each other's company. Life was simple and enjoyable and unchanging - At least that's how I remember it.

In truth, every year is different. Things evolve and change, and so do people. Traditions, regardless of faith, ask us to reflect on our lives and be grateful for

 what we have. Holiday scriptures (as well as fables) teach us to show our appreciation, practice for forgiveness and have compassion for everyone - including the Grinch.

I never liked that character. Nor did I understand the benefit of forgiving such a mean-spirited individual, even if the Grinch was born with a heart "two sizes too small."

But even the Grinch turns out to be just lonely and misinformed- thinking the Who's holiday merriment is only superficial, he "steals Christmas." Without gifts or decorations, the townspeople are forced to reconsider the meaning of Christmas, which the best gift of all.

Lou Lou Who was one of the first adults in Whoville to understand, saying, "I'm glad he took our presents. You can't hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, because it isn't about the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That's what Cindy's been trying to tell everyone... and me. I don't need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family." Cindy Lou had befriended the Grinch, despite his past. She helps the townspeople to forgive and accept the Grinch once he confesses to stealing their Christmas décor and gifts.

Children's stories, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, do a wonderful job illustrating the possibilities for good when one acts out of compassion and forgives those who have done wrong. Re-reading some of the classic stories this year, I also noticed how many of the stories tell of parents' fallibility. Lou Lou Who and the other parents of Whoville had gotten caught up in the details, trying to out-do their neighbors decorations and win contests. They needed the Grinch (and Cindy Lou) as much as he needed them to recognize the true meaning of Christmas. Misunderstanding (on both sides) was replaced with understanding, compassion and forgiveness.

Are such lessons harder for adults to learn than for kids? It seemed to be the case in Whoville and I think there's some truth to that. Adults more often have the choice not to forgive wrongs or misjudgments, harboring ill feelings. Kids, on the other hand, are encouraged to apologize and work things out regardless of who initiated the conflict.

So, in this most festive of season, as I reflect on compassion, forgiveness and trust, I seek to see the world as a child, enjoying new experiences, fresh and without judgment, and looking for the good in everyone - including the Grinches.

It's easy to forget these lessons we learned as children, but the forgiveness the Who's bestowed upon the Grinch will remind me of the compassion necessary to restore the true meaning of the holidays.

There are similar tales in all traditions. May all adults be as susceptible to these lessons as children this holiday season.

Tagged: Holidays, Christmas, Christmas traditions, Holiday traditions