“Nothing can take my joy away!”

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Choosing to be joyful is an intentional act. 

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Did you know that Jesus Christ was not actually born on Christmas?

AND it really doesn’t matter?

The generally accepted date of birth of Jesus is sometime between April 20 – May 20, between 6 BC and 4 BC, per Wikipedia.

Christians “evolved” winter solstice celebrations into Christmas, like people in all cultures, CREATE JOY out of the coldest and darkest days of winter. 

Years ago my family hosted two international students from Turkey. They came to the US to study English.  Even though they were Muslims, they were curious about the midnight mass I was going to take my family to attend (I have been the only Christian in my family, BTW.) They asked to join us at a traditional Christmas Eve worship in a nearby church. After about 20 minutes of singing Christmas carols and hymns, before the sermon started, they stood up and left.  I felt shocked and disappointed, even a bit offended. 

I asked them later what made them leave, they said: “When we worship, we never sing, everyone is quiet while we all pray together that way. It is just too different for us.”

Not everyone celebrates Christmas, no matter how I want to share my holiday joy with them. 

Not everyone feels joyful as Christmas draws near, out of all reasons: religion, culture, family dynamics, war, illness, financial stress, homelessness, loneliness…

In my humble opinion, Christmas is all about love, service, family, community. And when you have these, there will be the possibility of hoping for peace. 

In the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, author Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, recalled that more Auschwitz prisoners died around Christmas time, triggered by depression, hopelessness, spiritual, emotional, and psychological surrendering to the loss of faith for living. (He attributed his own survival to his volunteer work in Auschwitz.)

Choosing to be joyful is an intentional act.

If you, for any reason or no reason, feel gloomy or joyless during the holiday season, or at any other time in your life, this poem is for you. 

Love, kindness, and human compassion knows no religion, culture, boundary, or norms. 

May we all CHOOSE joy, peace, and love.


(A Poem:) “Nothing can take my joy away!”


It was a sunny day, 

bright blue and windy.

I threw myself in the backseat of an Uber,

a young black woman was the driver.


Trying to come up with small talk,

from San Francisco to Treasure Island,

with a heart hefty and edgy,

and spirits heavy.


She sensed my gloom,

her small feminine voice

soothing as the sky blue:


“My mother told me this:

NEVER let anything take your joy away. ‘”

Her right hand slicing the air,


Will take my joy away.”


Is gloom like joy, can be sensed, 

and contagious? I wondered,

riding in her roomy and clean SUV in the rush hour.

Is her message sent from a higher power?

Is she trying to inoculate herself from catching my gloom,

or is she lifting me up from a mood, sour?


Whatever stories she then shared with me,

mostly forgotten and overlooked,

I don’t even recall

How exactly she looked.

Her voice, over the years, gets to stay:

“NEVER let anything take your joy away.’”


Receive this gift priceless, when you are joyless,

feeling downtrodden or worthless.

When all around you seems storm or gloom, 

and unbearable darkness:

If you don’t let anything take your joy away,

no amount of darkness can lead you astray. 


To be joyful is an intentional choice. 

Joy comes from authentic gratitude,

unyielding attitude.

To be joyful takes courage.

To dance like nobody’s watching,

not allowing destructive forces interfering,

to live with passion and light,

is the triumph of life.


© Joanne Tan. Written and revised 2017,  2019,  Dec. 17, 2023

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