From the Desk of Matthew Dowling
P.O. Box 1702
Uniontown, PA 15401
For Immediate Release
Contact: Matthew Dowling
Letter to the Editor: “When the holidays are not ‘Holly and Jolly’ ”
By Matthew Dowling
“Creator God let’s be honest, there are some things I am not thankful for today. I am not thankful for cancer, disease, addiction, and crime” is how I started the holiday blessing before meals at our home just a few weeks ago on Thanksgiving.
2021 into 2022 were difficult times for my immediate family. In October of ’21, I was in my first car accident. Less than a month later my sister Maria was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. In June my struggles with addiction came to a head and I since removed my name from the ballot and retired from the Pennsylvania House. The fall of ’22 came with additional health struggles for my father, my aunt, and myself. I don’t share these things with you publicly because I want your sympathy, but rather to illustrate why I don’t feel “Holly and Jolly” this Christmas Season. In fact, part of me would rather not hear holiday music or see twinkling lights. That said, I have meditated and come to the conclusion that Christmas isn’t about me.
As Christians, we believe that Christmas is about the birth of a child that was sent into our world to die for our sins so that we can enjoy an everlasting life with our Creator – I don’t know what a greater cause for joy and celebration could be. But our human bodies are bound by our emotions and the truth is many suffer from multiple forms of what I’ll call “holiday funk.”
The holiday malaise can bring many people to a breaking point. Retail workers are under huge pressure, shoppers are stressed about gift buying, dads are in the cold hanging sparkling lights from their roofs, moms and grandmas are worried about cooking and baking. It makes me wonder if we have not built Christmas into a holiday that is so large it is too overwhelming to manage. So, this year, Rebecca, the kids, and I have made the conscious decisions to slow down and celebrate a simpler holiday season.
Of course, we still have family get-togethers, holiday parties, and church services to attend. I am not suggesting that we, as a society, forego all those traditions, but for a type-A perfectionist like myself, I am suggesting that we embrace our own imperfect humanity and simply love and enjoy this time.
Knowing this time is difficult on some, I would encourage you to check on your friends, family, and neighbors. Celebrate the season with them in a way that doesn’t add additional stress, but that does take into consideration both your and their mental health. Check in on those who have recently lost a loved one that first Christmas without a spouse, parent, or child can be devastating to some. Instead of perfectly decking your personal halls, think about joining a soup kitchen or church ministry to help those in need.
I don’t know who may need to hear this, but if you are feeling gloomy and like pulling the covers over your head and forgetting the world this holiday, remember why it is that we put so much effort into Christmas traditions and celebrations – the birth of Christ our Savior.
And, for those who are not spiritual, remember we do this for the next generation. I recently pulled a set of eight holiday glasses from the top shelf in my pantry. These specific ornate glass cups only get one or two uses a year, but they were gifted to me by my grandmother Agnes. I love them because they remind me of Christmas’s past – I don’t remember drinking out of them as a kid, but I remember seeing them annually. The memories the generation before me helped to instill in my mind can make me smile no matter how much the seasonal depression has set in. I posted a photo of said glasses to Facebook and Instagram and likely because they have a local connection, having been made by Houze Glass in Point Marion, Pennsylvania, many others have messaged me to share the same joy and memories these inanimate objects bring – not because of the objects themselves but, because of their connections to the people we love.
So, this Christmas, if you are feeling overwhelmed and dreary on these cold dark evenings instead of looking at Christmas through your own fogged up lenses look at Christmas through the eyes of a child – your child’s or the Christ child’s and you will experience the true Joy of the season.
Matthew Dowling is a husband and father who resides in Uniontown, Pennsylvania where he served as a State Representative for six years and currently hosts the podcast, Commonalities, on WMBS radio.
# # # # #