The kids and I unpacked our Christmas decorations this past Saturday. We placed our little tree on a window sill and added little gold ornaments and two thin strands of gold garland. And, that’s a wrap. I hope. While Mae and Jay were pre-occupied with testing the lights, I quickly repacked the stockings and bigger ornaments that we’ve used in some years when we’ve had a larger tree. They haven’t pointed out to me yet that no stockings are hung and we have much fewer decorations than some of our neighbors. I’m hoping they’ll let me slide. I reluctantly celebrate Christmas anyway. This year, as I try especially hard to budget time and money, I’d like to keep things really simple.
I should have stopped celebrating Christmas a long time ago.
First and foremost, I’m not a Christian. Being a hypocrite should be reason enough to stop. I made a half-hearted attempt in 2000, and it didn’t go over so well. I was in the first year of a new job. I declined politely to participate in Secret Santa, which confused my co-workers and dampened their holiday spirit. In the days leading up to the office party, my colleagues spoke in code and hushed tones about their attempts to find gifts and avoid tongue slips. The code was not to avoid detection of the names they had pulled. Instead, they didn’t want to offend me by talking about Christmas. On the day of the celebration, they huddled in a corner, literally, of the shared office space to have their potluck meal and exchange gifts. I felt kind of bad.
I hadn’t meant to shut down the whole party, and I have no idea why they didn’t meet in a conference room or the break room down the hall. The next year, I was invited again to participate. I agreed and my supervisor said with relief, “So, you’re not going to be a grinch this year?” Another co-worker welcomed me to bring in decorations or items related to Kwanzaa, which I happen not to celebrate.
And, with family, how do you “not celebrate” if your name still gets put in the hat at Thanksgiving for the Christmas gift exchange? Tradition and obligation are strong pulls. I am sooo outnumbered.
It’s not just family. Christmas is altogether hard to avoid. It’s everywhere: TV commercials and shows, radio, stores, houses and yards, schools, billboards. It is, on its surface, a two-month long secular and commercial onslaught (sorry, Jesus, to you and your followers) that I have never had the imagination nor found the proper supports to get around. I’ve found that unless you clearly identify yourself as Muslim or Jewish or have some equally excusable reason for not celebrating Christmas, people will either include you anyway or attempt to make you feel bad for not wanting to take part. So, I gave up. I lack the energy, the will, to resist. I go along to get along. Eckhardt Tolle wrote, “If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.”
Certainly, the time to get out of Christmas would have been before I became a mother. I’m stuck with it now for real. The kids expect Christmas and I am too cowardly to pull back. It’s not all bad though. As much as I dislike shopping, even for myself, I do enjoy seeing the kids’ reactions on Christmas morning.
I appreciate also that the holiday brings together my extended family. It’s one of our biggest and best celebrations of the year. There will be games, story-telling, food, laughter. The occasion never disappoints. Did I say food? Ironically, this is my favorite time of the year for just that reason. I can indulge in cake, cookies, and pie without apology. Saying no might offend someone or cast me as a “grinch.” And, I never want that to happen again.