I wrote this piece a few years ago, and since today is Christmas Eve, I present it here for you, dear readers. I’ve edited it a bit for context to this blog, and for the passage of time since I originally wrote it. Here is my take on Christmas and some of the issues surrounding the holidays that seem to come up ad nauseam and are kind of a kill-joy on the season for me.
For the past five years, Christmas has been a holiday that has brought me mixed feelings. Five years ago tomorrow, my Dad left this world and began what we call in Native American spirituality his spirit journey. So needless to say, Christmas has been a tough one for me at times, and for the first few years after his death, I felt a mixture of hatred and dread as the holidays approached. I often used to bristle at those who felt the need to chide me for not being appropriately into the “Christmas spirit” as they seemed to think I should, or those who would incessantly, without invitation, try to inject “Christmas cheer” into my life. Now, I just brush it off most of the time. The grief has passed, and I’m beginning to enjoy the holidays again. I’ve even begun to try my hand at some of the traditional Christmas baking that my parents did–with varying degrees of success. I must remind myself that they had years of practice to perfect their art, while I am merely a young Padawan. But, it feels good to be re-awakening, and beginning to enjoy the season in a new way, with new traditions, and new points of view.
Increasingly, I seem to be noticing more intensely the whole “war on Christmas”, “put the CHRIST back in CHRISTmas”, and the strident objections to “Happy Holidays” greetings on the part of hard-core Christians. I know it’s always been there, but I just feel like I’m seeing it more now, in the news, in commentary, and all over my Facebook newsfeed. It just seems to be more “in your face” nowadays. This attitude really sucks a lot of the joy out of the season for me. On the other side of the debate, I have an equal issue with those who get angry when someone says “merry Christmas”.
Christmas, to me, has always been a universal holiday–not just for Christians. Christians should realize that Christmas and some of its beloved traditions, such as gift-giving (think Saturnalia), Christmas trees (evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands were symbols of eternal life in cultures such as the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews), and others rituals have their roots in pagan and other traditions that long pre-date Christianity. Winter solstice celebrations (such as the Yule from ancient Scandanavian traditions) have been around for many millenia, and it is many of those celebrations that have been co-opted by Christmas. If anyone should have an issue with co-opting of holidays, it is the ancient pagans.
In fact, if one is to believe the veracity of the accounts of Jesus’s birth as depicted in the various gospels, evidence points more towards him having been born sometime in the spring. However, I’m not here to debate when Jesus was born, or if he existed at all. My point is that there have been celebrations at this time of year in many different traditions for millenia, and this is a universal time of joy and celebration. Nobody has an exclusive claim on this holiday. It means something different to many different people, and I’d love to see the day when we all respect and celebrate our differences. That is what brings richness to our experience. I can attest to that myself. While I grew up in a Christian faith (Christian Science), and practiced it for most of my adult life; I have come now to embrace a different spirituality, a non-Christian spirituality; and that, combined with the values I grew up with has deeply enriched my life and given me a new spiritual perspective that is uniquely my own, and fits me perfectly.
Sometimes I say “Merry Christmas”, sometimes I say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”, and other times it’s been “bah humbug”. It really depends on my mood or the situation. I also deeply appreciate the greetings that come my way, in whatever form they are given. What counts is that they come from the heart, and are expressive of the person who gives them. I ask that we all graciously accept the greetings and well wishes, rather than slap the giver in the face. If someone wishes you “Happy Holidays”, realize that it is a genuine well-wish from that person, and if you wish, say “Merry Christmas” to them. Whatever side of the debate we’re on, I ask that we all step back and get out of our boxes, set our egos and religious/non-religious prejudices aside, and just accept each other for who we are and where we’re at. I believe that’s all any of us want. That, to me, is the true Christmas spirit–to love and accept everyone as they are and for who they are, and celebrate the season.
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays! Celebrate it with those you love, and think on those who are alone, or who seem to have less than you do. If you have a chance, volunteer in a drop-in shelter or outreach kitchen that serves the homeless.
Much love to you all. Namaste! And, Mom and Dad–Merry Christmas–I miss you!