Christmas is such an oppressive holiday. I’m a typical non-believer of Protestant heritage meaning I have always celebrated Christmas in a secular way, with little attention to the bible story behind all the hoopla. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who don’t care to celebrate Christmas, and yet are inundated like the rest of us by the ever-increasing crapification of December 25. From Santa hats on flight attendants, cashiers and dogs to the gaudy plastic trees that invade every store, restaurant, bank and office, to the foam reindeer antlers on SUVs-a favorite in my town-it’s inescapable. A mall I unfortunately had to visit over the weekend boasted of their “100 foot tall, white fir with more than 15,000 lights and 10,000 festive ornaments that came from the beautiful landscape of McLeod, California in the Mt. Shasta region to the Americana Mall here in Glendale.”
When I was single in the 1990s I used to ignore Christmas completely. Instead of traveling back to the east coast to be with my family, I opted to save my money, which was scarce, and spend the day alone. While the whole world seemed to be raising glasses and feasting, I would go to the beach with a little picnic, or take a few granola bars on a hike, and enjoy solitude on the quietest day of the year. Christmas is the one day when almost all business shuts down and there is very little traffic. The streets are quiet. I savored those holidays and the message of Christmas that is nearly always forgotten in the hubbub of celebration: Peace.
The holidays bring up a lot for all of us. Nostalgia for the magic we remember as children is often mixed up with sadness and longing for people we miss. When someone is grieving the holidays are stark reminder of who is gone. Oddly, I don’t remember the first Christmas after my mother died. I must have blocked it out. But I know that for many years Christmas was a holiday I wanted nothing to do with.
Now that I have my own family I can no longer get away with ignoring Christmas. We have a tree and there will be presents and stockings and this year I even bought a little paper mache nativity scene from India for our mantel. I thought it would be nice to connect to the original story of Christmas: The tale of a young couple and a baby who travel a long way to find peace amidst a lot of chaos and strife.