Beyond the Perfect Present: Making the Holidays Meaningful

Friday, November 2, 2007

No matter our religious or cultural background, we have all felt pressured during the winter season to frame a picture-perfect holiday experience.  Whether it is to serve a flawless Thanksgiving dinner, create a Martha Stewart-inspired holiday home or to give (or receive) a much-desired gift, many feel a stressful frenzy ascending as the leaves continue to fall and the temperature drops. Our search for holiday nirvana too often involves crowded shopping malls on Black Friday, overloaded credit cards on Cyber Monday and pitched battles for the ideal blue spruce, leading to frazzled nerves and bad tempers.

Instead of celebrating each other, we compete for dominance on a consumer battlefield. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Saint Joseph’s University theologian Shawn Madison Krahmer, Ph.D., advises us to take a step back from commercial pursuits and to focus instead on the central meaning of the holidays.

“Set aside the cultural expectations of spending the most and getting the best,” she said.

“If you are religious, the ideal would be to reflect on the core values of your faith. If you are not religious, think about the times when you most enjoyed being with loved ones or family during the holidays – when something spontaneous and wonderful happened that helped to define the place where you belong, lending deeper meaning to the occasion,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Krahmer espouses a broad definition of family.

“It really is about being with those we think of as family, which can mean a traditional nuclear family, a group of cherished friends or a larger community,” she added. “Gathering together on an important occasion creates a special communal bond that makes a lasting impression on everyone involved.”

Krahmer can be reached for comment at, at 610-660-1870, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.