Christmas. I have been getting shit about my views of Christmas since I left a quote for the high school year book. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I think I said something about the commercialization of it all. Someone corrected me and gave me the Charlie Brown speech, where Linus was reading the birth of Christ story from Matthew. So, let me start there. I’m no historian but it isn’t just the Seventh Day Adventists who don’t believe Jesus was born in December. Most Christians agree that he was born in the fall. Some say that the church tried to take over the winter solstice celebrations by making the Jesus birthday celebration in December. I guess they didn’t want the “pagans” to have all the fun? I don’t know about you, but I like birthday celebrations. Actually taking a minute to tell someone we are glad they were born is cool. I will love Happy Birthday wishes as long as I live. Once I’m dead though, I don’t think I will care. Now Jesus isn’t dead, but it isn’t like we can walk up to him and say “Happy Birthday” either. Christians are always grateful for the birth of Christ and don’t actually need a holiday to let everyone else know that.
Let’s see, there is also the story of St. Nick, a Christian bishop from way back. He is said to have been the type of Christian who expended his life helping the poor. I don’t actually know what he was like, but the stories of his life led to Santa Claus lore. Helping the poor? Seems like a good idea no matter the day of the year.
The Christmas tree has about 100 different interpretations. Probably someone, somewhere has written them all out. Although keeping historical fact separated from fiction is no easy task. I’ve heard of the Vikings believing that evergreens represented a sun god, so they worshipped them. Another theory I’ve heard is of 16th century German Christians bringing the trees inside and that decorating them was some act of worship. I can’t make heads nor tails of any of it.
I grew up in an agnostic type home with no religious ideas at all. Some chubby guy named Russ showed up at our house in an old Dodge every year. He had a nice gray beard and a Santa suit and brought us toys in a big red bag. I had no problem receiving presents but never did like sitting on his lap (sorry Mom, no disrespect intended Russ!) Besides the presents and candy, my personal favorite part of Christmas was getting off of school, truth be told.
Many of you may have heard the Christmas ham story that has been passed around. In short, a child asked his Mom why she always cut the end of the ham off before baking it. She replied that it was what her Grandmother did, so she was keeping tradition. When the child asked Gramma what it was all about, she replied, “I never could afford a pan long enough for the whole ham so I cut some off before baking it.” A telling point in my view of tradition for traditions sake, it’s just dumb. Lord have mercy, rituals irk me as well. Even serial killers have rituals.
As a Mom, I’ve heard the advice many times over the years, “kids need traditions, it makes them feel secure.” But I also know plenty of adults who go to church on Christmas Eve, or who genuflect in times of crisis or make decorating a sport and a competition. When I ask them why they do such things, they cannot answer. Or they are like the Mom in the story, who just did it because Gramma did it. I don’t really know, maybe it does make them “feel secure.” But what about, “being secure?” Wouldn’t that be a better goal?
I have a friend who decorates to the nines for every holiday. She has expendable income and she enjoys it. She knows it makes her happy and so she does it. I like that. I like that her kids probably picked up the sense of joy she gets, not just some tradition they will follow because “that’s what Mom did.”
I know others who are very cranky during the holidays because they feel forced to spend money they don’t have. I’m guessing those kids get the idea that Christmas is a stressful time. Some say that many children wind up in foster care at a higher percentage rate during holiday times because the stress pushes the parents into unsafe behavior. Isn’t that just awful?!
At other times I’ve had people ask me, “Do you want to exchange gifts?” No. I don’t want that. I love giving gifts. To find or make something for someone because you believe it will bring them joy, or make them feel cared for? Now that is fun! Feeling pressured to buy? Or giving with the expectation of receiving? Ick. Not fun. Going to church, because that is what your fellow believers do? Uh-uh. Or some dead church father who determined “the day” to celebrate the incarnation? Nope. That is no different than the ham to me.
Now I don’t really lament what other people do. I say go for it, whatever, however, you wish to live your life or celebrate your holidays, have at it. I’d just like to think it is based on a personal decision or belief, not a pre-determined tradition anyone feels forced to follow.
I will admit, we just went with what our parents did and have been spoiling the kids for years on Christmas Day. I like the fun they have. I like finding something they will like. They are occasionally irritated when the Amazon list is ignored, but, so be it. I do hope they will decide for themselves and their future families to create traditions, not because they are following their past, but creating a future. I also hope that they live their lives with the emotional integrity to feel and deliver love and joy all throughout the year, not just try to save it for any old holiday.