How to have a happy Christmas Chapter 3
3rd March, 20100 Comments
Do we need to celebrate Christmas? Come to think of it do we need to celebrate anything at all? What does celebration mean? Literally the word comes from the latin celebrationem, noun of action celebrane meaning performance of a religious ceremony. In the online dictionary called Wiktionary, celebration is defined as the performance of a solemn rite. Observance of a holiday or feast day. The act of showing appreciation and gratitude. Gathering for entertainment, party.
The Thesaurus explains celebration as –
The verb to celebrate adds –
Have a good time
Push the boat out
So according to these we celebrate in order to remember, acknowledge and have fun. This, I think goes much deeper. To remember and acknowledge someone or something is to give them existence. To give them life. This becomes even more evident when you look at what it is we celebrate. These include –
Holy days (the original root for the word holiday I believe)
One aspect of “celebrating” is that it can be seen as an opposite to work. This makes celebrating important because it is then associated with rest. As we know from Genesis ch2, v 2 – 3 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. We do need to rest. If God needed to so do we. In this world that is now pretty much on going 24/7, having a specific time when we do stop and rest is becoming more important than ever. In America it is reported that 75% people experience symptoms related to stress in a given month.
But celebration isn’t just about rest. Celebration is an act of leisure. Leisure, not being a time of work, is a time of doing s you please. B.F. Skinner, in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, defined leisure as the epitome of freedom. A time of being relaxed. A time when danger has been avoided. It is a time of play. We know from our childhood how important playing is and it’s relevance in our individual development. Play is a time when there can be learning and strengthening of skills in a relatively risk free environment. Where new things can be experienced with no serious consequences. Another important aspect of celebration is that it gives a time of rest an objective. Leisure time with no more objective than “not working” is a bit like an empty space. This can be very dangerous to human development because a behavioural vacuum will get filled by something eventually. Unfortunately in the 21st century what fills it can often be negative traits such as drugs, alcohol abuse, overeating, sloth, addictions, gambling. On the positive side, skills that can be developed that are beneficial can include sporting skills which build and reinforce many aspects of social behaviour such as team work and personal skills such as motivation. This is in addition to the personal benefits of being healthier. But not everyone likes sport. Artistic and creative skills, which are as important to industry as engineering, are other skills which can be developed during a time of leisure. Because these skills are worked on during a time of leisure the motivation to improve them will be greater than during a time of work because the need is guided by one of pleasure instead of accountability by contract. After all, I would suggest that the main reason we work is to gain enough income so that we can afford our leisure time. It does make leisure, and by association celebration, an excellent reinforcer to work. But celebration as a reinforcer is mentioned in more detail later.
A little while ago I said that leisure time can be used to develop and learn skills. What sort of skills might be developed in preparation of Christmas?
Oh dear. Sums. The dread of many a teenager. In May 2000 a Basic Skills Agency report stated that nearly 40% of adults in England cannot read, write or do simple sums. In 1998 a report said that the skill levels were so poor that 20% could not cope with the demands of modern life. So how are people going to develop these skills? Where is the incentive? Well preparing for a big party such as Christmas can be one. For a start, say you had to buy presents for 10 people and you only had £100? I imagine most people reading this would say that it was obvious that you could only spend £10 on each present. Most people, yes, but according to the statistics not 40%. On top of that there is the cost planning for the food as well. Maths isn’t just about adding and subtraction. It is a way of thinking. A structured, logical way. By doing maths you are training your brain to think in a certain manner. This, in turn, will help you to do more and be more.
Now those statistics I mentioned under mathematics applies equally well to writing. How does Christmas help you with those writing skills, apart, that is, from writing your present list to Father Christmas. Well how about Christmas cards? I remember as children the task of having to write thank you letters to all our relatives. I didn’t enjoy it because I wanted to get on and play with my new toys but it did instil in me a basic skill of letter writing. Not just the words but also the structure and format of such a letter. I don’t doubt that much of it can be done on a computer these days and the thanks sent via email but even that is better than nothing.
Christmas is a time of socialising. A time of meeting with people. Old friends. New friends. Social skills are very important in life as you need them wherever you work. Even on a lighthouse. If you don’t work then you need social skills to help you get a job. What are social skills? They are skills you use in order to get on with people. It might be knowing when to talk and when to keep quiet. It is knowing the correct way to look at people. It is just as important as knowing what not to do as in you don’t give anyone a big hug just because they said hello. It is learning to say please and thank you. It is any skill that facilitates an interaction with someone else. It can also include non verbal communication such as ladies learning to keep their knees together when sitting and wearing a skirt. In a survey commissioned by computer giant Microsoft it was discovered that interpersonal skills are more important in the workplace than IT skills.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft Chairman said that communication skills and the ability to work well with different types of people are very important. Mixing socially at Christmas will help those skills to develop.
This might seem an odd skill that can be developed at Christmas. But just think. A family of 5 are expecting guests to arrive for dinner. Who is going to get the breakfast? Who will wash up? Who will entertain the guests when they arrive? Who will cook the dinner? Who will plan the dinner? Who will get the ingredients and so on and so on? This is family management. One, or maybe two people, often the family adults, will take charge and decide who will do what and when and often how. If it isn’t done bedlam will ensue.
Apart from the presents, the centrepiece of Christmas day is the dinner. What goes into making a superb Christmas dinner? Well typically there is turkey, or chicken. Beef is becoming more popular though. Some people, myself included, like to go back to more traditional ways and have a goose. But what about Aunty Gladys? She’s a vegetarian. Or Uncle Ned, he’s a vegan, and cousin Geraldine is allergic to nuts and Richard has celiacs disease. Didn’t I hear that Susan is a diabetic? Now it isn’t an understatement to say that if you give someone with conditions like these wrong and you could do more than just ruin their day. Ok, so with a bit of research you can find out what sort of foods they can’t eat. So what do you give them instead? It still should be a hearty meal that is tasty and nutritious. But what? Planning for just such contingencies will mean using your management skills and your knowledge of nutrition. Knowledge you will have to get from books so you must have pretty goo dreading skills.
Now I want to return to what I was saying earlier about what happens when there is nothing to do. Is there any benefit in doing nothing? Well yes there is. As I also mentioned earlier that even God rested once he had done all his creative stuff. Did he just put his feet up on a cloud and have a nap or did he do some ecclesiastical jigsaws? We will never know. But how we respond when we have nothing to do is indicative of how capable we are at surviving. Yes there will be times when we do have to sit down before we fall down. There will be times when we need to take a nap in the afternoon. What is important is how often we do it and what else we could be doing instead. A prime reinforcer of work is rest. Like all reinforcers it must be taken advantage of in its right proportion. Hang on though. What do I mean by this term reinforcer? In behavioural terms, a reinforcer is something that encourages a behaviour to happen again. It also encourages the behaviour to do it more and better. We have them everyday. When you do something for someone and they say thank you your behaviour of doing a favour is reinforced. If they were to ignore you are you likely to do it again? I doubt it. Pay is another reinforcer to encourage us to go to work.
On this topic let us look at how celebration is as a reinforcer.
Celebration is an excellent reinforcer. It reinforces the aspect of what it is celebrating. When a sporting win is celebrated it reinforces the benefits of fitness, competitiveness, motivation, striving and achieving. If you celebrate an award you are saying well done to the winners and saying that if people behaved more like them they would stand a better chance of getting this same reward. When weddings are celebrated the act of romance, chastity, the furtherance of the human race. To celebrate heroism as we do every November on Remembrance Sunday we reinforce the aspects of bravery and valour.
If you are celebrating a holy day such as…Christmas, you are reinforcing the principles and values of Christmas. Therefore you are reinforcing the act of giving, being charitable, the philosophy of Christianity
We know that materialism doesn’t make us happy. Would it be possible to have a happy Christmas without presents? Well it would solve the problems of shopping and finding the money. The American Psychologist Martin Seligman has studied the aspect of happiness at great length. One of his findings is that happy people lead a “rich and fulfilling social life”. Now when there is a celebration there is rarely just one person celebrating on their own. Celebrations bring about groups of people. Some maybe strangers but I doubt if that lasts for long. So does celebration make us happy? Of course it does. Have you ever seen a celebration where everyone has long faces? No!
By celebrating someone’s birthday we are recognising their existence. We are also saying thank you for the past year and wishing them well for the following year. This is just as important if you are 18 or 80. A birthday celebration really is as much about the year ahead as the years gone past. A celebration is a way of saying thank you and that is a very important aspect of our lives. Have you ever done a favour for someone and not got thanked afterwards? How did you feel? Did you think “that’s ok. It doesn’t matter. Any other time just say” or did you think “ungrateful so and so. I won’t help you again”. Quite likely it was something like the latter I’ll bet. It is an understandable reaction….but how does it help your community? It won’t. You will feel less likely to offer to help which would help strengthen the community spirit. So the community spirit gets damaged. Celebration is an effective way of saying thank you. You can hold a celebration to say thank you. You can celebrate an individual’s achievements to say thanks. As in the service of remembrance in November you can say thanks for the service given in defending and protecting our country. When you say grace before meals you give thanks. What does saying thank you do? Well for one thing it encourages the relevant person to do it again. It boosts their esteem. It uplifts their spirit. It reinforces their actions. The students of the psychologist Martin Seligman held a night of gratitude. They invited someone along who they then said thank you too in front of everyone. This was so successful all involved were on an emotional high for weeks after. Who wouldn’t want to feel that good?
So celebrating makes us feel happy. It says thank you. It reinforces good values and characteristics. I acknowledges an individual’s existence. So do we need to celebrate? Oh yes we do. Very much so.
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