Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!
I should begin by saying I’m no grinch. As I write this, I sit in the glow of christmas lights that have been twinkling on our tree since the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And about twenty minutes ago, I took yet another photo of my adorable maine coon nestled cozily under our second, smaller tree in the bedroom. I love the lights and the music, the homemade ornaments and delicately sculpted gingerbread houses. But that’s not what this post is about.
Sitting in the second congested parking lot of the day, almost 3 hours in and not a gift deemed sufficient to be found, clarity set in. Actually, I suppose it’s a realization that’s been building, and like most others, is only solidified by some painful yet expansive experience. I had such an experience today amongst the madness of last minute shoppers in one of Houston’s largest malls. Yes, I entered a mall, something I vow never to do, and certainly not this time of year. Which just goes to say, christmas makes me crazy.
At least the christmas that I see around me. And by that I mean, the christmas the retailers and advertising companies want me to have; a christmas devoid of spirituality with almost zero connection to Jesus Christ, “the reason for the season.” Though, biblical scholars agree that Jesus was unlikely to have been born on December 25th anyhow and that the sacred date was probably adopted from an ancient pagan ritual.
Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, christmas was celebrated as the birthday of the sun, ushered in by the Winter Solstice. It was a time to rejoice because it meant new beginnings and brighter days ahead.
So I guess what I’m saying is, the widespread religiosity of the day bewilders me.
But I’m used to this kind of puzzlement. What I really don’t get, what repulses me and what I no longer refuse to engage in, is the rampant commercialization and obligatory consumerism of christmas as we know it. Or I know it anyway. Even Santa isn’t what we believe him to be.
No, I don’t mean he doesn’t exist. Of course he does. That’s where the magic comes in. I mean, his image is a lie, a persona cemented by Coca-Cola advertisers in the 1920’s as a way to grab children’s attention during a slow time of the year. Kind of sickening, no?
I guess I’m unlikely to be one of those parents who takes their child to sit on Santa’s lap. But there’s a lot of other things I won’t do, too. I won’t buy overpriced junk or wait in long lines or watch bad christmas specials on tv. No, going froward I’m going to have a new kind of christmas.
And I will start by celebrating on Dec. 21st and Dec. 22nd, rather than the 24th and 25th. This is the time of the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of sunlight or the shortest day of the year. It only seems appropriate to bring some joy and light to an already dark time. The next couple days will be spent doing things that bring my family and I joy- even if that only means drinking cocoa by the fire or having lunch with a close friend.
Then, on December 25th, I will be of service in some way- volunteer at a shelter, spend time with in a nursing home, pick up trash- anything. This seems, to me, much more in line with the spirit of the season and the perfect cap to my new winter celebration, otherwise known as christmas.
As for gifts, I’ll still doll em out. I’m no stiff. I just refuse to go to extravagant lengths or to sacrifice my principles in the process. I won’t give gifts because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I won’t buy things just for the sake of buying them or because something is the best of bad options. I won’t go to stores that I hate just because they’re cheap and convenient and I procrastinated yet again. (Yes, that means you, Walmart). I won’t one-up or compare or price guess, all of which I’ve done by the way. No, christmas will not consume me and I will consume for the sake of christmas.
Here’s what I will do: I will give thoughtfully and in moderation. I will give because I’m able to give and because it brings me pleasure. So, sorry, no Lexus with a bow in the driveway for my sweetie. That’s more likely to happen some random June day when I’m reminded in some small way of how amazing he is and just how grateful I am to have him in my life. And it would be a ’66 Shelby Cobra.
Alas, this is all wishful thinking for now. And no, I don’t mean the car part. That will happen. What I mean is, I can’t, so far as I know, go back and celebrate ‘christmas’ two days ago, nor undo the last-minute frenzy I’ve gotten myself into; but at least now I have a plan, something to look forward to.. And isn’t that the best part anyway?
As for the next couple days, I invite grace in as I gather with my family and celebrate Christmas the way I always have. It’ll be wonderful. I will exchange presents, eat delicious, non-vegan food and spend some time with people I hardly ever get to see. And if I’m lucky I’ll get a taste of the ordinary too. I will check Facebook and cuddle with my cats and maybe even find time to meditate. I’ll sit back with a warm cup of tea and watch it all unfold…
As a final note, this post is not meant to offend or belittle anyone’s holiday. One of the great freedoms we have is the ability to celebrate or not celebrate a holiday any way we choose. I meant only for this post to illuminate my own evolving views on the matter and to shed some holiday baggage, in the form of an emotional unload. A girl can only take so much! So to clarify, there’s nothing wrong with the way anyone chooses to the celebrate the holiday; the problem lies with the underlying belief I have held about it until this point- a belief heavily influenced by an insidious media and advertising conglomerate- a belief steeped in materialism and religion. I came to believe Christmas is about gifts rather than giving, price tags rather than people, and embracing our differences rather than our oneness. Not to mention the not being a Christian thing. As long as I’ve been removed from the Catholic Church, it’s felt slightly wrong to benefit from or relish in a day celebrating the birth of Christ and ultimately, Christianity. But I guess I would feel guilty about this, having grown up in the Catholic Church, wouldn’t I?
Be merry, everyone.