I absolutely love December, for so many reasons. I love cheery holiday music and rushing around buying gifts for people. Everyone just seems cheerful and we get time off work/school – what’s not to love?

Well…I guess for some people (and you might be one of those people) there is a lot that’s hard to love. For me, I am a summer girl through and through. I hate snow, I hate being cold, I hate long dark nights. Once Christmas is over, it feels like I’m gearing up for another long winter when I just want to close my eyes and wake up in the spring when I can go outside without my face hurting.

There are so many reasons why someone might dread this time of year. Maybe it’s difficult for you to be around your family more than you usually are, or maybe you don’t have family to be around and you wish you did, maybe it’s difficult for you to face all the eating-related activities that are tied so closely to the holidays, or maybe you have difficult memories from holiday seasons past. Maybe the cold, dark days and nights are difficult, maybe the break reminds you of something you do not have but long for, or maybe this season reminds you of a loved one you have lost. Whatever your perception of the holiday season, it is real, it is valid, and you are not alone in your difficulties.

One particular aspect of this season that I love and look forward to are the twinkly Christmas lights strung up everywhere. When I see them, I instantly feel like I’m 8 years old again. I have so many fond memories as a young child of walking or driving around with my parents to see as many Christmas lights as possible. Walking around in the dark and frosty night, seeing my breath in front of my face, my eyes would be lit up from the sparkly displays depicting Santa or snowmen or shiny stars. It was exhilarating to see the efforts some people go to in order to spread some cheer. You see lights in people’s houses, strung up in their front yards, hanging above shops, and lighting the path in town squares.

These tiny little drops of light represent a lot of hope to me. Christmas lights shine as a tiny light in the middle of another long, dark, cold winter. What is that light for you? Is it the fact that you made it through another year (a particularly hard one at that)? Did you take a step toward recovery? Did you get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve always wanted to try? Did you reach out to repair a broken relationship that used to mean a lot to you? Did you show yourself some compassion and grace in a moment of difficulty? Did you let yourself be vulnerable in order to connect more fully with someone?

And what is that long, dark, cold winter for you? Is it a struggle with mental or physical illness? Is it a discouraging relationship that is less than what you hoped it would be? Is it a battle with your spirituality or social issues that don’t align with your beliefs? Is it finding the strength to get up and face another day? Though these winters may look different for each of us, we all face long, dark, cold winters in our lives. While these time periods can be extremely trying, there are always tiny shining lights if we look hard enough. That light could be a friend reaching out to support you, or a day where the struggle wasn’t as hard, or where you succeeded in something you’d been trying to do for a long time. Whatever it is, celebrate that victory and focus on that light to carry you through the long, dark, cold winter. 

During this winter, I urge you to look for your own “Christmas lights”, as cheesy as that sounds. 2020 has been a trying year at best, and the worst year of many people’s lives at worst. Despite this, there are still lights to find. Christmas lights come in all shapes and sizes. Some are classic white, others are multicolored. Some flash, others are still. Some glow very faint and soft, others are bright and harsh. Some are round, some are long, and some are in the shape of winter characters…the light that you find and focus on may look different for you than it does for someone else. No Christmas light is exactly the same. And that’s OK. Find that light in the dark winter and hold onto it. We will make it through another winter!