By a show of hands, how many people out there are planning on, in a couple of days, sitting around a pine tree in the living room passing out presents to loved ones while sipping cranberry mimosas and listening to Michael Bublé belt Jingle Bells on the radio? Keep your hand up if you don’t consider yourself at all religious.
You’re in good company. Christmas, a high Christian holiday, finds its way into the homes and hearts of millions of people who aren’t of the faith. Maybe they were at one time. Perhaps you were growing up. But now even the thought of entering a church gives you palpitations, let alone sitting in one for an hour or more every single week, or, God forbid, twice a week!
Funny how so many of us can’t break ourselves of the Christmas tradition despite or nonreligious lifestyle. We may complain of how commercial it is, how stressful it makes our lives for a whole month or longer, and how much we go into debt every year just to make it a holiday to remember. For as much beauty there is to be found in Christmas, there seems to be an equal amount of discomfort and anxiety.
And yet we still cling to it!
Is it peer pressure? A matter of keeping up with the Joneses? Who has the tallest evergreen covered in plastic doodads sitting in the front window? Maybe it’s for the kids. Maybe it’s for us. But for whatever the reason, we’re committed to this highly involved ritual to the point that we might as well go all in and call ourselves Jesus freaks for a few weeks out of the year.
Except that we’re not.
And therein lies the mystery. If we’re willing to go through all the fuss of pretending to celebrate the birth of someone else’s two thousand year old savior, doesn’t that sort of make us imposters? Who do we think we’re fooling? Shouldn’t we be doing something else with our time and resources? How many Christmas CDs do we really need? And the baked goods…are those really necessary? I think most of our doctors would disagree. But…wait. Never mind. They’re in on the week-long sugar binge as well.
What are we doing to ourselves?
If you think I’m about to plead with you to knock it off, you’re absolutely mistaken. The Christmas steam locomotive is not something I’d jump in front of and live to tell about it. I might not understand all its power, but I know enough not to stand in its way. Not to mention, I enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus just as much as the neighbors and their friends and their families and their neighbors and so on and so on. Skipping out on Christmas wouldn’t make me happy. The one year I did spend it away from my family, I was in the middle of Africa as a twenty-three-year-old, fresh-out-of-college Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Chad listening to all the villagers bang pots and pans at the stroke of midnight to usher in the big day. I never felt so distant and alone in all my life. I promised myself from that day on that I’d always spend December 25th with my family doing our traditional family things. And yet, it wasn’t about the trees, carols, decorations, gifts, or even nativity scenes. It was about one thing that family provides, and one thing only: warmth.
If you’ve ever found yourself in mid-December wondering what the heck it is that you’re doing trying to keep up with this holiday nonsense, especially if you aren’t a church-goer (or even if you are), please go easy on yourself. Be playful. Be joyful about it. Forget the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. My family let go of that worn-out tradition years ago, and we’ve never looked back. It’s not our birthday. Well, it is MY birthday, but that’s beside the point. If you have little ones, I get it. You’ll have hell to pay if Santa doesn’t come down the chimney at your house. But when they’ve matured, consider putting an end to the needless merchandise, or limiting it to no more than one gift. Just a suggestion!
If there is anything I like to remind myself of during this sacred season, it’s that I’m not doing this for anything other than my own sense of goodness, peace, and inner joy. And by this, I mean living my life. I learned early on, thankfully, that each day, each season, each year, each chance encounter I have with another wandering spirit is meant to be an opportunity to feel good, to feel love, to feel happy, to feel a sense of growing peace within myself and my beautiful world. I hold dear to that unwavering knowing. I choose to celebrate that this holiday season. And I wish the very same for you.
Merry Christmas, my friends. May your 2018 be warm and bright.