December is the quintessential month for revitalizing our relationships. It is the season when friends and family rekindle and capture once again the essence of gathering together and being with each other. It is the opportunity for the ties that bind us to be strengthened or rewoven through more meaningful ways. Christmas time is for reveling in the presence of our loved ones, going beyond the festive food and the wonderful gifts. It is being renewed by the simplest things that sustain us, the tight hug, the warm smile, and that loving gaze.
However, not all of us will be blessed to be part of these moments of Yuletide joy and fellowship, particularly during our present situation. It is good to know that December also plays host to other observances that care for those who are not part of such yearly traditions.
Show Them You Care By Calling
On December 12 1971, Franky Hyle of Melrose Park, Illinois gathered with friends and family at his home and brainstormed a special undertaking to encourage more friendliness towards one another. He then placed a free advertisement in the Chase’s Calendar of Events in 1972, where for just $1 a person could join the National Ding-A-Ling Club. Members would become ambassadors of amity and goodwill, tasked to call friends and family members who they haven’t talked to in a while, once a year on the 12th of December. Since then, the purpose of the club has been adopted by people around the world, and has become a reminder to revitalize our relationships with the people we care for.
Traditionally, the term ding-a-ling is an onomatopoeia for the ringing sound of a bell, which Franky Hyle thought quite appropriate for rekindling relationships using the telephone of his time. Related to this is the earlier practice of using bells to signify alerts and important announcements within the community. Therefore, it is apt to have a holiday that reminds us about what is truly important.
Although the classic bell-type telephone is a rarity in this age of smartphones and laptops, we can still ring up at least one person who is part of our lives yet hasn’t been really present. It would be a gift evocative of this season’s warmth and cheer.
Another interpretation of ding-a-ling is as a moniker for an eccentric person. Thus, people have also bookmarked this date to salute their strangeness. Some go out wearing kooky headgear, while others take up the challenge of walking backwards towards their destinations. I just love how this holiday can be celebrated in totally different ways!
To fully commemorate National Ding-A-Ling Day on the 12th, you can also go all out, make that caring call wearing your funkiest Santa hat while walking backwards to your favorite coffee shop or hang-out. (Do it, I dare ya! ;P)
A Pen-ny For Your Thoughts
Another reason why this season is “the most wonderful time of the year” is that it also observes the comforting weight of the written word. National Write A Friend Month this December extols the value of a personalized letter, written by your hand and received by the person you are fondly thinking of.
In these fast-paced days of instant messaging and emails, there is something to be said about a letter that you can hold. From its journey through the postal system, to its arrival in your mailbox or doorstep, and to the nostalgic ritual of opening the sealed envelope, the whole experience is one of anticipation and delight. When the words come, in their unique shapes and in a particular style of conversation, I can imagine that you, as the recipient, would be hearing the sender’s voice in your mind as well. If this person is someone you haven’t talked to in a while, a tangible letter will also feel like a gift.
If I were to write a letter to a beloved childhood friend now living far away, it would be more of a parcel than a simple envelope. I would take this opportunity to embrace this season and give her stories, to show off my penmanship, such as it is, since the last time was in highschool when we would send each other tiny notes and poetry, and maybe send her a small sketch or two. I can use my favorite fountain pen or pens loaded with ink in the colors of Christmas just to add that festive touch. Such an endeavor would also be a treat for me, to be able to send a part of myself across the miles to her.
Another way to mark this holiday is by adding a distinctive touch to your gift tag or greeting card through a personal note unique to that individual you’re sending it off to. Those little things make the thought genuinely count as they call to mind perhaps specific moments that you’ve shared or fond memories that you have of that person. Words that evoke our treasured connections bring happiness and help deepen our relationships and enrich our lives.
An additional, more adventurous approach would be to find a penpal to exchange letters with. This has the added dimension of getting to know an entirely new person, as well as discovering their culture from a unique perspective if they hail from a different country. How exciting is that?!
And lastly but not the least, you can reach out to a stranger to share that Christmas cheer. You can send a letter through several agencies that sponsor such outreach programs, and even send a care package through them to someone in need of a little kindness during these cold months. Who knows? Your “Hello, this is especially for you.” might be the uplifting difference that they are searching for this Yuletide.
There are so many ways to celebrate Christmas, as well as practices that honor its true meaning that go beyond the tinsel, the carols, and the presents. I hope that National Ding-A-Ling Day and Write A Friend Month give you the inspiration to embrace that caring spirit and share it beyond the holidays.
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!