Feliz Navidad

By Kris Ota at SantaFeNewMexican.com

Christmas is part of the American tapestry, and it touches each of our lives to some extent, no matter one’s spiritual path. The airwaves are full of Christmas music and advertisements; businesses and homes are transformed by decorations, tiny lights and farolitos; and the message everywhere is to be merry and bright.

Yet this is also the dark time of year, with shorter daylight hours and mounting obligations. Many of us are susceptible to feelings of “not enough” — not enough time, not enough light, not enough money. At times that Feliz Navidad can seem just out of reach.

Felicidad is on the radar in popular culture. Recent research into the subject of happiness shows that once our basic needs are met, having satisfying experiences trumps acquiring possessions. In many cultures around the world, people understand that happiness is directly related to our relationships with other people. People from the Southern African region use the Bantu word ubuntu, translated as “human kindness” or, in Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words, “my humanity is … inextricably wrapped up in yours.”

The concept of ubuntu resonates with those who long to make the kinds of connections that can lead to deep happiness. The contemporary writer George Saunders’ commencement address on kindness at Syracuse University went viral on the Internet last year. “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness,” Saunders said. “Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

Exhorting the young graduates to “err in the direction of kindness,” Saunders said, “There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.”

This year Feliz Navidad focuses on the connections that can bring us closer to happiness. In these pages you’ll find stories on finding satisfaction through doing things for others and through spending valuable time with family and friends. Arin McKenna’s story on volunteering provides useful links on how to connect with those in our community who need a hand. Sharon Niederman’s heartwarming story on Temple Beth Shalom’s Torah restoration project includes a listing of special Hanukkah events that are open to the entire community. Dennis Carroll’s piece on Delancey Street shows that buying a beautiful Christmas tree can also support an organization whose members are working hard to build more positive lives.

This season Santa Fe is full of activities for creating special moments together. Our Advent of Holiday Events spotlights eight of Santa Fe’s favorite holiday activities, all of which help make this time of year enchanting for all ages. Look for stories on holiday music, homemade Christmas tamales, ceremonial Pueblo dances, winter art markets and activities at museums and historical sites. You have plenty of memory-making events to choose from, right in your own backyard.
See if you can’t find the makings of a satisfying — and Feliz — Navidad.

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