First essay contest: The Holidays

Readers, welcome to the first-ever No Agenda essay contest. Below are two essays on the holiday season, one written by me and one written by my father, Mr. Alfred Rotondaro. If you'd like to cast a vote for which essay you prefer, please do so in the "comments" section. A contest is exactly what this blog needed, in my opinion. Let the games begin. My essay on the holidays, by Cara McDonough The Christmas spirit nearly bowled me over as I was standing in line at a security checkpoint - shoes off, bags under the x-ray - at an airport several weeks ago.

I had reached up to grab a plastic tub in which to place my coat and scarf for the guards when I heard a female voice say, rather curtly, "I need that."

The offense was so small I barely recognized it.

But I did. I did take note.

This was a hallmark in the joyous beginning of the holiday season, when traveling is frequent and every place, from the mall to the highway, is crowded with people hurrying to get that perfect present or visit every last family member, every last friend.

And my neighbor in line was feeling it.

She offered no "please," no smile and no qualms regarding her discourteous behavior.

I had made a simple mistake, if you can even call it that, by grabbing a bin she'd hoped to procure, and she was angry.

Everybody knows that Christmas is stressful. The reasons I mentioned are the big ones - traveling, busy schedules, spending money - it's not all Santa and cookies like when we were little.

So it's not simple anymore. But why can't we be patient, and maybe even a little nice to one another?

It's something I wonder about in general, but especially during the holidays.

The season is often described as people's favorite time of year, as well as the most stressful time of year. That has always seemed slightly comical to me, even though it's true for obvious reasons.

Because we can't get around those reasons, we are limited in how we deal.

When the woman made her brash remark and took her plastic bin I felt a flash of anger. I'm not above holiday stress.

I thought of lashing back with a rude, "Excuse me!" or a scathing look.

Then I looked at the line of people behind us, fellow travelers stuck with the same circumstances.

I noticed the expanse of hard, cold land outside the large airport windows. It was frigid that day, winter approaching.

I noticed the holiday decor up in the building, placed in a futile attempt at making spirits bright and I made a decision.

I laughed and said I was sorry and let my own personal holiday stress dissolve. My limbs felt lighter.

And as if that weren't enough, the old adage that those who give shall receive rang true and my sock-footed friend smiled back.

My essay on the holidays, by Fred Rotondaro Many of us look to the holidays with intermingled feelings of joy and dread.

I am one of those.

The holidays are life in miniature.

They are passion and boredom, rote activity and opportunities to show love and maybe a little disdain, life and death.

The holidays overwhelm us and they depress us. We eat and drink too much, sleep too little, and now we have a new mini-crisis to give us additional stress.

Is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas--or my favorite, have a holy Christmas, because that is what it's all about, isn't it?

I have vivid recolections of my early Christmas holidays.

My father in his favorite chair being as gracious as he could be to our hordes of relatives, and me sayiing "don't worry, Pop, they'll all be gone in a few hours. You can make it."

And my mother always winding up in a hospital because she ate all the wrong things causing her heart fluids to go up, whatever that means.

And my uncle Fred, the soft spoken Marine combat veteran, with his namesake, me, in tow visiting our relatives on Christmas Eve to discuss/argue politics and society and religion.

The holidays, for me that means Christmas, for others a wonderful variety of other meanings, are indeed life. And like life, they offer the chance for renewal-a renewal that can be grounded in faith in God, belief in the goodness of man, or anything that inspires us to reach beyond our reach.

It is time to end this little essay I am, after all, to satisfy the deamds of our secular Christmas, finding quiet time to think and pray to satisfy my religious Christmas.

And remembering always to draw distinctions because as P.G. Wodehouse wrote, "Christmas is once again at our throat."