Q: What do you think the significance of Christmas is? It’s not even when Jesus was born, and all I see are plastic reindeer, felt poinsettias and boxes of chocolate.
A: I’ve heard it said that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and frankly, it makes me gag. I agree with you – there’s rarely a Jesus to be found, and if there is, it’s probably in the form of a light-up Nativity scene for your front yard. I think the significance of ANY holiday is whatever significance you give it.
There are plenty of holidays that we probably don’t even know about, much less celebrate, and people have their different traditions. I recently read a great article about atheists who are celebrating Christmas with a tree and presents to symbolize how grateful they are for everybody in their lives. I think that’s great! Christmas trees aren’t from Christ’s day, and neither is Dec. 25th (close to the winter solstice, I have a sneaking suspicion that was another one of those Christian borrowings).
Some put Jesus’ actual birth sometime in the middle of January. Giving presents could conceivably be a Christian tradition, seeing as the Wise Men gave those three fabulous gifts to the baby Jesus, but those were just three gifts, and for a very specific reason. I don’t think the owner of the inn got a gift, or the shepherds in their fields, or the tax collectors. How about Rudolph? Probably not Christian.
I’d like to get beyond Christmas, however, and broaden your question to include all holidays you celebrate. The traditional ones are Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Looking at them, I think all of them also include alcohol, don’t they? Sometimes I think it’s easier for us just to go along with the crowd. After all, there’s not much Winter Solstice party stuff out there right now.
We’re bombarded with the same stuff season after season. It’s almost as if we’re victims of our culture and what “they” (whoever “they” are) tell us we should buy, do and be. But I don’t buy that (hah!). It may feel a bit like swimming up a water-slide, but it might be fun to try creating your own traditions and holidays, even if they don’t coincide with or fit any of the holidays that are currently celebrated here in the States.
I admit it – we do a lot of the “normal” things for Christmas: we play a lot of Christmas music, attend church services, put up a tree, buy presents, bake a lot of really sweet stuff, and party as much as possible (without too much liquor). So while I accept that Dec. 25th isn’t Jesus’ actual birth DAY, I still choose to celebrate it at that time. It coincides with school getting out so the kids can all get home, we already get some time off, so why not celebrate?
This year after we get home from the Christmas Eve service we’re making homemade pizzas and ice cream and opening presents. We all still believe in Santa (another non-Christian part of Christmas) so we will get our stockings Christmas morning. But I’m personally tired of all the other “stuff” that goes along with Christmas, such as Christmas cards (do I REALLY care that little Bobbie Sue is swimming two levels above her age group and that your home reconstruction project is almost complete?) and bonuses for everyone from the mailman to the pedicurist.
I try to be generous throughout the year, giving Joe the mailman cookies anytime and Connie my pedicurist a generous tip each time I see her. Why the extra expectations? One notable exception is my children’s teachers – they ALWAYS get hefty presents come Christmas time. And although I DO love to bake, I don’t buy the extra junk in the stores (like the mixed nuts, red and green M&Ms or light green marshmallow trees). Enough is enough.
I see the holidays as a time to get together with family and friends. I see it as a chance to slow down our normal activities and just focus on fun (we’re having a Harry Potter movie marathon Christmas Day). I see it as a way to honor someone whom I have the highest love, respect and admiration for (Jesus), and also as a way to indulge in the fabulous fudge that I only make this time of year (without feeling guilty).
Having our family split from divorce when the kids were only 4 and 6 made it difficult around the holidays, for sure, because half of the time I was alone, but I’m a firm believer that while holidays truly ARE just regular days, you can make them what you want, or pick another time or day to celebrate. It certainly doesn’t have to be ON the exact day.
Pick and choose. Be unique, be yourself. Hang peace flags on your evergreen, light candles for those who’ve died this year, serve at Churches United for the Homeless, contribute all of your Christmas money to Amnesty International, have a non-holiday party and invite all of your fabulous friends. Why not?
The more you can feel in control of how you celebrate the important times in your life, the more empowered and excited you will feel. You will look forward to the holidays instead of dreading them and all the junk you’re supposed to do (do you REALLY have to stamp green trees on all of your plain white wrapping paper?), and hand-craft your days to have meaning for you.
And all the rest of the extra, unnecessary stuff? No no no.
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