PURSUING THE ELUSIVE CHRISTMAS SPIRITUS

It’s that time of year again – when people get caught up in a frantic hunt for the Christmas Spirit, spending money, time and energy like they have extra. Pushing, shoving, jostling and grabbing so they can get a thing that, when covered in paper and handed to another person, will possibly lure this butterfly of happiness to a specific location, if only for a second. Listening to the same 80 or so songs that, if heard enough times, in enough variations, from enough voices, might briefly flush this quiet quarry out of the tangle within our hearts, souls, or brains. Cooking and serving a table-straining feast in an attempt to bring this elusive creature into focus within a culture that already shoves food in our progressively fleshier faces every minute of every day. (“Can you breathe?” “Barely.” “You’re not full yet. Buy a low-fat snack bar!”) But ’tis a rare thing the Christmas Spirit, and seldom encountered. We know more about Bigfoot. During the Christmas season, two questions inevitably surface: first, “What is the Christmas Spirit?” and second, “How do we know when we’ve captured it?” In an attempt to facilitate the identification and apprehension of this will o’ the wisp, the first ever bestiary of Christmas feeltudes (combinations of feelings and attitudes) is presented below.

A caveat: Like any other cryptozoological endeavor, this effort does not claim to be, or even expect to be 100% accurate for everyone. It is only a feeble first attempt.

Black Friday and Competition febris:

The careful preparation for Black Friday (where and when to meet, who’s car to use, how to wait most comfortably, who runs where in the store to try to get what when the doors open), the split-second action and reaction, the physical give and take…the cool-down… Is the feeltude catalyzed by this yearly, adrenalin-fueled event the Christmas Spirit? No. What you’re experiencing is Competition febris. Black Friday is a sports event in which you, a highly trained athlete, test yourself against others in a world-class arena. Look for the following distinguishing mark of Competition febris: it eventually metamorphoses into “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The Christmas Spirit does not.

Methodical Christmas Shopping and Hilarem actio:

Trudging for hours through dozens of stores while hugging a hundred boxes and bags… Is the feeltude you get from the bright, cheerful sights, sounds, and smells you are bathed in during Methodical Christmas Shopping the rare and elusive Christmas Spirit? Nope. That’s Hilarem actio. There is joy in being around so much agreeable stimulation, as well as gratitude for 1. a break from routine, 2. your health, and 3. your bank account. There is sweet anticipation of the delight you hope to see on the faces of significant others, but Hilarem actio lacks stamina. After only 14 hours or so, it devolves into fatigue and crankiness. Later it can become downright debilitating if someone doesn’t like their present(s). Not so with the Christmas Spirit.

Christmas Dinner and Reatu liberum edendi:

The tribute to loved ones who have moved on, the careful preparation of seasonal, family specialties like Maw Maw rolls, Mom’s butternut squash souffle, or Pa Pa’s pumpkin pie, the dreamy anticipation of the participants and the physical bliss of those first bites… Surely the Christmas Dinner feeltude is what we’re searching for! Negatori good buddy. This feeltude is Reatu liberum edendi. It is without doubt a part of Christmas, but it also part of Thanksgiving and Easter. The real Christmas Spirit is only active after Thanksgiving and through the Epiphany (January 6th). It hibernates the rest of the year. (The Christmas Spirit that some merchants try to scare up in July is a contrived shadow of the real thing. Don’t be fooled.)

Christmas Programs and Operae nostrae vicaria experentia:

Sacred music performed by great church, college or high school choirs, A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life, performed on stage or on the silver screen, renovated and digitized retellings of Rudolph’s or Charlie Brown’s story… Gotcha! Close, but no cigar. The Christmas Spirit does often visit this feeltude, but it is not this feeltude. You are actually experiencing Operae nostrae vicaria experentia when you attend to these performances. (Kind of sounds like a Harry Potter spell doesn’t it?) The difference is that O.n.v.e. requires a million other people – writing, producing, performing, disseminating – whereas the Christmas Spirit requires only you and the universe.

Here’s a clue. The most accurate aid to identifying the real Christmas Spirit is your mood on December 26th. If you are only worn out after the madness has subsided and glad that Christmas is over for another year, you are like Linus in the pumpkin patch the morning after. You are still Christmas-Spiritless. The real thing rejuvenates and renews you, and changes you at a subliminal level. When you get the Christmas Spirit you know it.

Okay, it’s time for the reveal.

The most important thing you need to know about the Christmas Spirit is that it is quiet, like a leaf settling on a still pond. If whatever you’re feeling is noisy or busy, that ain’t it. It comes over you without fanfare or announcement. So…when Christmas spiritus does swoop silently down, your soul/heart/consciousness opens to the vastness of the universe and the music of the spheres, a breath of hope flows through the void and fills you like an autumn breeze, and acceptance and love of everything and everybody warms you to your tips. If you happen to be Christian you see it through the lens of divine manifestation, which sprinkles it with wonder and awe, but Christianity is not a prerequisite. Even though the Christmas Spirit smells like cloves and pine and sounds like a slow, quiet version of “Silent Night” if sung, it may actually be Oneness-With-Everything (experienced by several religious viewpoints) in different plumage.

As far as how one attracts the Christmas Spirit, the internet has some great ideas. It is important to remember, however, that it is less likely to alight while we are focused on doing something. Activity plays a crucial part in reminding us that where there is life there is hope, and lots of it, but a moment of contemplation, and appreciation of what we have, and of what’s possible in the future, greatly increases the odds of capturing Christmas spiritus. (Keep in mind that none of this is certain. The study of Christmas feeltudes is a new field. More research is needed.)

Seriously…Christmas is actually many things – too many to touch upon here – and it is profoundly personal. But it isn’t greed, it isn’t guilt, and it isn’t onerous obligation. Look below the surface. And relax.

We here at WHYR and the Baton Rouge Progressive Network want all of you to know how much you are appreciated, and we hope the Christmas Spirit, and all the other wonderful feeltudes of this special season, touch you in a profound and lasting way. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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