Celebrations are fun!

Rest is necessary.

Connecting with our communities is crucial.

Holidays serve a very, very important social function. Particularly in a time where more and more people are getting isolated and social connections are breaking down, holidays may be even more important than ever.

However, there certainly are lots of selfish and ignorant motives around many of the big ones celebrated in the U.S, which has soured the experience for many people.

For example, people don’t really know why they hand out candy for Halloween in the U.S. or what flying reindeer have to do with the birth of Jesus. But since everyone else seems to go along with it, we do too. Why do we need to slaughter millions of turkeys and overeat on the U.S. day of Thanksgiving? And who needs more sugar anyway–which seems to be omnipresent in just about any holiday?

Then we have a spiritual awakening.

The light goes on, and we have to look. We can’t close our eyes anymore. We have to look at the reality in front of us as false beliefs are stripped away from everything, including holidays. 

Once you’ve really looked at something, you know consciously what you are going along with and what you are supporting. And if you want to reclaim the holiday in a way that is meaningful to you, then you can.

But first, let’s start by illuminating some myths and cultural stories we have around some holidays–at least those holidays here in the heavily Christian-focused, United States. I encourage those of you in with different religious backgrounds to apply the same rigor to your holidays.

Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly Because Why?

Once upon a time, a baby who would later grow up to be a pretty cool spiritual teacher got born in a barn because his parents couldn’t find any other place to rent. 

So why are we decking the boughs with holly? 

What does an obese Caucasian man in a red suit who climbs down chimneys with toys have to do with any of this? 

Why are we expected to give hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gifts to friends and family? 

For 2020, total spending in the U.S. is predicted to be between “$755.3 billion and $766.7 billion!”

Spiritual awakening shows you how powerful culture is because it’s so easy to accept all of this as normal. It’s December. Time to get a dead pine tree and cover it with random ornaments. Uhhh, why?

Surrendering Obligation and Reaction

I’m not interested in finding the origins of any of these customs. I am simply pointing out the blindness with which we do things. 

The holidays and the actions surrounding them are no different than anything else, but as you see things more clearly, you will likely take actions differently. 

Giving because of obligation isn’t true giving, and you may be surprised that you may not want to give anything this holiday season. That’s actually fine. It won’t be fine according to some of your social circles, but on the spiritual path, you can’t expect others to understand what you may realize. This also doesn’t come from any anti-consumeristic mentality. That’s an ego reaction. When we are clear about ourselves, we give or not as and when we feel moved. There’s no ego logic to it, although there’s a deeper divine intelligence at work.

Spiritual Awakenings, Openings, Revelations, Oh My!

Moving Towards Greater Integrity with Christmas

Because there are so many great spiritual teachers, there are more than a few reasons to celebrate all their birthdays, and there’s no reason to select one above all the rest. If you are particularly drawn to Jesus and his work as a Jewish reformer (because that’s what he was doing; the first letters from Paul are 30 years after Jesus’s death, I believe), then celebrate Christmas. Take back the holiday. If you strip away the packaging, lights, food, and family obligations and just celebrate Jesus’s birth, what does that look like for you? What customs would you do? It’s a different way of thinking, is it not?

In many ways, we do the same thing with everything else in spiritual awakening. The holidays are no exception. We look at what we are doing and what we are believing in. We question it. As we pay more attention, things that aren’t in integrity with us are revealed. We are forced to make a choice then; do we continue to do something that is not in integrity or do we change? 

Hopefully you make the choice to change, but that sends ripples out into your life. Many people won’t like your changes and will want you to keep playing along with the same game. Your kids have gotten used to getting tons of stuff (most of which is forgotten or unuused in 2 weeks), so stopping or mostly eliminating most of the gifts may be shocking to them. If you choose to celebrate this time of year more for winter solstice than for the birth of Jesus, that could shock a lot of people too. But whether people are shocked or upset (and people are always looking for reasons to be shocked and upset anyway), it’s important that you are peace with it. That’s how you bring greater integrity back to a holiday.

How to Create Conscious Change

The Absurdities of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

As of late, the ridiculousness of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. has been on my mind. Let me outline some cultural activities and beliefs around this holiday:

  • Thanksgiving is based (as far as I know and have been taught) on the coming together of colonists and Native Americans to share a meal together. It’s a symbol of cooperation.
  • People eat tons of turkey, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie (among others), and other dishes.
  • Watching American football for most of the day has become fashionable.
  • Families come together during this time.

There are probably other things that I could mention, but this is what comes to mind. In general, Thanksgiving is essentially a harvest festival. There are all kinds of harvest festivals around the world, so you may be able to find a corollary in your country if you live outside the U.S. But as we look at these things (and even if you aren’t awakened, you may have already realized this too; you don’t need an awakening to be a conscious and aware person.), you can see a lot of myths and lies. Here are some of the myths and lies for Thanksgiving in the U.S.:

  1. The history of colonists and Native Americans is one of ignorance and violence. This one shining moment where people got along is pretty much a sham and continues the gross ignorance in the U.S. to the continued plight of of the First Nations peoples who live on reservations in varying levels of poverty. It’s estimated that multiple diseases caused the deaths of 90% of the native population (this is what I meant by ignorance–colonists didn’t know they had it). Along with that, western expansion driven by the idea of Manifest Destiny has been more than that population could recover from. So on that level, it’s tough to get into the idea of Thanksgiving as a symbol of two healthy, happily co-existing societies.
  2. People overeat. I mean a lot. It’s actually rather fashionable to over-indulge. In a society with an obesity epidemic, Americans don’t need this excuse to eat more, and with hunger such a huge issue internationally and nationally, it’s kind of deplorable. Additionally, the food is usually starchy, sugary, full of fat, and overly-focused on meat. A lot of you probably don’t eat that way anymore. Why continue to do it then?
  3. Watching young men destroy their bodies for everyone else’s pleasure is not fun. The vast amount of physical violence men endure and that cultures think is okay is one of the great issues that is hidden in plain sight. It is hidden in plain sight because most cultures don’t think it’s a problem for men to be physically abused. We’re supposed to be “tough” and to “take it.” This is absurd, and it makes for a culture filled with physically and emotionally damaged men. American football is one of many examples of this violence sitting right in front of our faces.
  4. Finally, the cultural myth of the family gets reinforced at this time. For Thanksgiving and other U.S. holidays, it’s expected that people spend time with their families. I won’t go into all the mythologies around the “family” and it’s social function. But there are many. I can only encourage you to investigate your ideas about family.

Hopefully, this helps you to see a little deeper into Thanksgiving and gives you an idea of how to investigate a holiday. For those of you who don’t fully understand why you don’t want to do these things anymore, I hope these words give you an idea as to what you may be feeling.

Bullied, Beaten, and Abused: The Prevalence of Physical Violence in Western Culture

Other Holidays and Their Mythologies

There are plenty more holidays to pick on. I don’t know if Halloween was originally a time to worship our ancestors or what. Now, it’s just a reason to eat lots of candy and continue to worsen the childhood risk for obesity and other ailments. Most people don’t know why they’re supposed to dress up in scary costumes, but each year it comes around, they do so. In this way, we really are cultural lemmings. We have no idea what we are doing. We’re following everyone else who has no idea why they are following everyone else.

Halloween, The Day of the Dead, and Other Afterlife Celebrations

Should I keep going? There’s Easter. Yes, Easter. It’s the time when we celebrate a large white rabbit that leaves chocolate and…eggs? 

Uh, okay. 

And that somehow has something to do with Jesus being crucified and reborn. Once again, I’m not interested in where cultural myths and customs derive. I am pointing out that we follow along with them because we are taught to do so. Someone says a day in May is Mother’s Day. We all believe that. There’s a day for fathers in June. There are so many things that are made up, and then there’s New Year’s. The changing of years is so arbitrary. In the U.S., we follow the Gregorian Calendar, but it’s just one way to decide that a year has changed. There are quite a few other calendars. (You can check out this list on Wikipedia if you’d like to see other calendars). That’s why all the excitement over the changing to 2000 or 2012 (which aligned to the Mayan calendar) is more than a little absurd. These numbers are totally made up, although how we give things meaning does have power.

8 Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions for this Year

People around the world do the same thing with so many other holidays in their cultures and religions. The advice is the same. Pay attention to why you are doing what you are doing. It is the first step for you to choose to reclaim holidays for yourself.

5 Tips for Reclaiming Holidays

Cultural holidays aren’t going away, although most of our interest does as we open up to the truth that all of life is made-up. But because there are a lot of choices we can make, we can also choose to participate in ways that are true to us. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how to reclaim the holidays:

  1. See what you are doing and question it. For many of you, you’ve never questioned why you get a tree and cover it with lights for Christmas. Everyone else does it, so why not you too? It’s peer pressure, but this is just one of many examples of things we blindly do and accept. To reclaim your holiday means to understand what it is you are doing and why.
  2. Listen to your own integrity. Being integrity with something means it feels true to your heart, body, mind, and spirit. Because there can be a lot of layers associated with a holiday and issues (such as being a “good” Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.), you can spend a lot of time in the identification phase before moving to this step. Reclaiming a “holy day” doesn’t mean you are less aligned with your religion. It’ll mean you are more aligned with the true meaning of celebrating Jesus’s birth, Yom Kippur, or whatever holy days matter to you.
  3. Letting go of all holidays. You may also let go of all holidays for the time being. Since they are all made up, you may end up in an inner space that doesn’t need to assign special meaning or importance to any days. If this is what is in integrity with you, that’s fine. If you are in this space, you probably don’t need me to tell you this anyway.
  4. Creating new holiday rituals. For those who still enjoy a particular day, I encourage you to connect with the meaning of that day or time period and create rituals that matter to you. If you want to celebrate Jesus’s birth, perhaps you focus a little more on reading the New Testament at Christmas. Perhaps you volunteer to practice being more charitable. There are many, many ways to create your own holiday rituals.
  5. Inviting other to join you. Particularly if you are a parent or in a dedicated relationship, you may invite others in this reclamation project as part of all the aforementioned steps of reclaiming your holidays. You may be surprised how many other people want to reclaim the holidays and have felt the arbitrariness of them. Offering a way to do so will be enriching and may inspire them to find new meaning in their holy days.

Nothing to Show for Your Spiritual Work

A Rebirth of Holiness in Your Holidays

Holidays are a form of ritual. They’re a way to honor people. the passing of seasons, important changes in cultural history, and more. However, many of them have been denuded of their meaning. They’re simply days we have off or a reason to overindulge. In other parts of the world, they are lost in zeal and ideology, and thus, people get lost just as badly in their holy day without realizing the truth: EVERY DAY IS HOLY.

Finally, practicing a faith for only one or two appointed days of the year is a poor practice indeed. If anything the holidays should always be a reminder about the gift and sacredness of  every day of our lives. If you truly realize this, then you have reclaimed not just your holidays, but every day as holy.

Enlightenment: Give Up the Spiritual Chase

The Path to Nowhere

(updated 12/2/2020)


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Jim! Have you or could you write a blog about how television and media keep these “beliefs” very present in our lives? Certainly one of the most prevalent and unshakeable addictions ever… Thanks for all you do and are.

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