When I was a little girl, I believed that my birthday brought on Christmas. Because I was born on December 6th, and the house got decorated for Christmas around that time, I thought I was the reason for the festive season of lights. Clearly, with my Catholic upbringing, it didn’t take long for me to be put in my place as Baby Jesus got top billing for being the bringer of Love and Light to the planet. At least this is what I was told before, during, and after, holy mass.

As a very young child, Christmas was all about the presents. What was I getting? was the only thing in my innocent little mind. At this young stage of my life, Christmas was a magical time when my sisters and I received presents simply because we existed. We didn’t have to do a thing to earn our presents as the toy store magically found its way under our Christmas tree!

Although my memories of Christmases past were of happy and joyful celebrations, I do remember that celebrating the birth of Christ, as God made flesh, had somehow given way to celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus, with gifts delivered by reindeers pulling a sleigh. As the Christmases went by, I noticed that my perception about my favorite holiday of the year, besides my birthday, of course, was shifting.

Once Santa got top billing, Christmas changed. Forever. Yes, I still couldn’t wait for Christmas morning, so I could run to the tree and open my presents. However, leading up to that moment I lived with the fear that I may not get what I wanted, or worse, I could get just a lump of coal. You see, by the age of 5, my parents began to tell me that I needed to be nice and not naughty to earn my presents. I needed to perform to be rewarded. Long gone were the days of receiving gifts, just because. Now, I had to be a nice child. A child with a clean room and a made-up bed. I had to make good grades. I needed to be a good sister and a good daughter. I had to be a good girl. A good helper. I needed to, well, become aware of what my parents wanted from me, so I could get what I wanted from them—I mean, from Santa.

Fast forward to 2002, the year my awakening began. Once I started to become self-aware and explore all of the ways I had been conditioned, since childhood, to be “nice and not naughty, good instead of bad and do right instead of wrong,” the belief patterns that ran my life came rearing their ugly heads. I remember being at Target, with my children’s Christmas wish lists in my hands, and tears streaming down my cheeks as I realized that, just like my parents had, I too had bribed my kids into being nice, good and doing what I judged right, if they wanted to be rewarded.

Yes, I adored my kids and I inevitably gave them what they wanted, even if they had moments of naughtiness, but the message was clear: you have to be “this” to get “that” reward, and if you are not what I want you to be, then you will be punished. Yikes, what a conditional message to give during the season of giving, which supposedly was about honoring the incarnation of the Master of Unconditional Love. I was giving, all right, but I was giving to get what I wanted.

Sixteen years into my Awakening has made me aware that all human life, when experienced through the myopic filter of our egoic identity, is ruled by our fear of being punished and not rewarded. No wonder the holidays, be they Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any other cultural celebration that is meant to be a time of happiness and of good cheer, has become a time of stress, comparison, and disappointment. People, the world over, have bought into the illusion that we are meant to give to get. The holidays, when experienced without conscious awareness of our ego, becomes a time to earn our worth.  This makes us conditional people who only give with an ulterior motive. We give at work, to get the bonus. We give to our kids, to get their good behavior. We give up our sleep, to get the Black Friday discounts. We give to our significant other, in order to feel special. We give to friends, to get acknowledgment. We give to the needy, to undo guilt. And we give to the church, to get into heaven.

Awakening is the process by which we become consciously aware that the ego-made rules about life are all based on fear. Yes, everything that is done by our human ego can be traced to our childhood fear that if we are naughty, we will be punished. Not just by Santa, or other holiday deity, but also by our parents, kids, neighbors, friends, teachers, bosses, lovers, society, government, and ultimately, and most frightening of all, by God. This way of believing has dimmed our inner light, which is evidenced by our behavior, especially during the holidays, which sends us into a performance frenzy in an attempt to get others to temporarily light us up with their approval. To our childish human ego these performances for approval serve as evidence that our existence has meaning.

Thankfully, many of us have felt the stirring of our Soul’s awakening, which has ushered in the remembrance that each of us—YOU & ME—just like Baby Jesus, is also a bringer of Love and Light to the planet! The greatest Love of all—the unconditional kind—has been within us all along. The egoic belief that we have to stop being our authentic self, in order to get rewarded with praise and conditional love, is as made up as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and that God is to be feared. Seriously, not a single one of us needs to give up a damn thing to get Love, because Love is what we are made of. After all, we are each made in the image of God (or whatever you prefer to call it) which is the very Energy of Love and Light!

This holiday season, regardless of how you celebrate it, consciously choose to be merry and bright just because, in Truth, the Love and Light that YOU are is the reason for the season. And by the way, so is everyone else, without exception, which means that no one needs a reward.

Tis the season to give, only to receive, the pure bliss you will experience when you witness another feeling unconditionally loved by you. And, when you receive a gift, acknowledge the Love the other placed into the item and don’t focus on the item itself.

YOU, my beloved, are the bringer of Love and Light and there is nothing you could get that could ever be worth more than what you already are. YOU, oh Holy Being of Love and Light, are the reason for this, and every, season!