What I Used to Love
When I was a child, Christmas really was the best time of the year. It meant four kinds of treats from Mom Mom: sand tarts, Mexican tea cookies, seven layer cookies, and chocolate fudge with walnuts. It meant driving around to see the colored lights. Singing holiday songs at school and Christmas hymns at church. Watching the specials on TV: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman. Decorating the Christmas tree, which was a real one until we discovered my brother’s allergies. Waiting anxiously upstairs until we were allowed to come down on Christmas morning. And of course, it meant Santa and presents and toys. I believed in Santa until I was eight years old, even while getting teased by kids at school. He’d come down the chimney (that we didn’t have) and land in the fake cardboard fireplace, which also served as a place to hang our stockings. My dad worked hard to perpetuate the Santa fantasy by climbing up on our sloped roof in the middle of the night and ringing bells.
How I Stopped Loving It
Slowly but surely, Christmas grew to be more of a hassle than a joyful time. I think my waning enthusiasm for the holiday corresponded to my disillusionment with God and religion and what I saw as an annual greed fest. Kids ripping open presents and barely looking at them before moving on to the next. The regular sigh of disappointment when the last gift was opened: Is that all? My mom and grandmothers in the kitchen working away while the men sat around doing whatever it is that men did back then. And I becoming so jaded that I would sneak into the closet where the presents were hidden and carefully open each one to see what was inside, pretending to be surprised on Christmas day.
For years, Christmas has been this burden. And since I started blogging, the only times I’ve written about it were when assigned by the Green Moms, or BlogHer, or some other bloggy group to which I belong. I don’t want to have to buy gifts for everyone I know on a specific day, just because our society has decided that December 25 (or December something else for those who don’t celebrate Christmas) is gift day, or gift week, or whatever. And I don’t want anyone to feel compelled to buy me anything either. I want to give when motivated by love, or when I happen to find something that I know one of my friends or family would appreciate. I hate all the waste, the plastic toys, the wrapping paper, the canned music, and the shopping frenzy.
Finding A Way to Love It Again
But this year, I’m enjoying the holiday season. Because I realized that Michael and I, rather than escaping Christmas as we believed we were doing, have made our own traditions. For the past two years, we’ve lit the Menorah for each day of Hanukkah (or for as many nights as we remember to do it.) I’ve even memorized one of the prayers, although I never remember what the words mean. Regardless, I love the sounds of the language and the simplicity of the ritual. There are no gifts involved and there don’t need to be.
On Christmas Day we go to the movies. And then out for Chinese food. And we enjoy strolling along the empty streets, when for once, the city is relatively quiet with most people inside their homes and most shops closed for the day. This year, I think I’m going to take another break from the computer, like I did on Buy Nothing Day. In fact, I’m writing this post on Christmas Eve and will schedule it to post automatically on the 25th.
But you know what I think I love most about Christmas? The fact that it takes place right after the Winter Solstice, which means that for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the days are once again getting longer. As it did to ancient pagans, to pagans still practicing today, and to those of use who just don’t like freezing our buns off, this holiday represents the rebirth of the sun and our connection to the earth from which we came and to which we will return.
Christmas has a different meaning for each of us. I think the point is to experience it fully. To feel the emotions that come up for us, whether positive or negative. And let the day simply be whatever it is.