“Holiday cheer” is a likely phrase heard around this time of year. It is only punctuated with Christmas lights brightening streets and homes that they are attached to, holiday fairs and bazaars, visits with Santa, parties, decorating Christmas trees and many, many events and obligations that crowd our calendars every year. 

Many find great solace in this time of year. It’s when they are able to be with family, enjoy a good meal, unwrap presents and look forward to a clean slate with a New Year. All power to these people who get wrapped in the spirit and find the joy that comes when they saunter into a party sporting the ugliest of Christmas sweaters. 

Others, however, have the opposite experience. Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is appropriately abbreviated as SAD, is a real epidemic that impinges on even the strongest people. The “seasonal” part isn’t talking about the red and green atmosphere that overcomes small towns like Lakeview, townships like Christmas Valley and even smaller cities like Paisley. No, it’s related to the changes in seasons. According to Mayo Clinic, “SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” 

Though I enjoy rain, overcast and dynamic weather, others may not when colder times come up in the earth’s seasonal cycle. 

For others, the Christmas season may mean loneliness. Perhaps they never had the same experience and memories that others have when Christmas is brought up. Maybe they don’t have religious feelings toward the holiday, only seeing it as a commercialized excuse to get any money out of naïve shoppers as the 25th comes creeping upon the public. It may be the same feeling that you feel when your favorite sports team didn’t have the best season, though your friend’s team made the championship. They could feel empathetic for them, but just can’t connect on the same level. 

To many, the season means an overload of work that has to be pushed through before you can enjoy yourself and your family, creating stress and sleeplessness. It could also mean an upward cost of heating bills, presents for family and other responsibilities that siphon into our wallets. 

In my experience in Lake County, now in my third Christmas season in the Oregon Outback, the majority of people are enfolded in the season. The area is largely family-based with deep heritage here so kids return to see parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, which makes it very easy to take it easy with their travel plans.

For someone like me, who has to travel nine hours to the closest family member over snowcapped mountains and untrustworthy weather, I don’t feel this same belonging to the area as others do, which is fine. As those who see the holiday season as a cultural experience, religious celebration or just as an excuse to enjoy family and friends, we should be respectful to those who may not be on the same wavelength. 

In our day of political correctness, whether you say “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas” or if you would rather not exclaim either, take any greeting that relates to the season in stride. Charles Longfellow, the author of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” wrote inspiring lyrics even after his son died in the Civil War and his wife in an unfortunate accident. The songs restates a Biblical verse of “peace on earth, good-will to men,” a phrase that can encapsulate the spirit of the season. However you enjoy or not enjoy the season, just do your best to make it through even through the tough times. 

— Jimmy Hall

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