Thanksgiving came and went. Now we’re quickly approaching Christmas. Christmas – what seems to be the biggest holiday of the year. Stores and malls go crazy with holiday sales, decorations are everywhere, there’s a mad rush to cram all the traditions into a short period of time, kids come home from college/school, family too, gifts are expected, and the food! Then there’s the whole religious aspect – for many Christmas is the biggest birthday party of them all.
The clash between the secular winter celebration and the religious holiday always seems to be a bigger deal for some than it is for others. I, personally, don’t understand this. As Christians, we’ve adapted a number of secular or pagan (gasp!) winter traditions and now try to claim them as our own. I’m not going to bother going into the details of this again this year, but I will say, I can completely understand the human need for a celebration in the middle of winter. For those who live in warm climates, this need might not be as drastic, because let’s face it, when the days are not much shorter and still warm and sunny instead of short, grey and cold, one’s spirit might not need as much lifting as it does for those of us who are longing for the return of the sun and it’s warmth.
And that’s where you’ll find me, in the place where I could use something to lift my spirits. But, somehow, I don’t think Christmas is going to do the trick this year. It seems that each year I become a little less enthused about the holiday.
I used to love decorating the house for Christmas. We have a large space in our attic solely dedicated to Christmas decorations – boxes and boxes, no less than 3 artificial trees, heirlooms and new items, indoor and outdoor wreaths and lights. But the boxes often sit unopened from year to year now. I did manage to get a tree up and decorated, a few decorations onto the porch, and a collage hung ( it’s very large and hangs in our stairwell every year ) this year. But that’s probably where I’ll stop. The other boxes will remain unopened for yet another year.
However, I don’t feel as if I’m turning into a Scrooge. I still love seeing the Christmas lights when I’m driving home from the shop (Why is it dark enough to see them at 4 freakin’ thirty!?). I love listening to Christmas music and our disc exchanger currently holds nothing but Christmas themed CDs. I enjoy seeing the Christmas decorations that are so prevelant everywhere – towns have lights on their street lamps, the library is decked out in greenery, even the local shops have holiday themed windows and the doctor’s office has hung some seasonal banners.
But, the only people who see the Christmas decorations in our home are The Goat and me. Decorating is a lot of work, I haven’t been able to convince myself that it’s worth the effort this year. Most of the people on our gift list would rather store bought over hand-made. I hate shopping and the monetary value people put on a relationship based on gifts. I don’t get much Christmas baking done, and does it matter? How many cookies can two people eat before getting sick? And for some of us, there is no “home for the holidays” – my family all live far from one another, and many in areas where winter travel is unpredictable.
I’m sure the holiday is quite different for those with children or family nearby. However, I’m not sure that I’d feel much different if those scenarios were true for us. Seeing the mounds of gifts the children in our lives receive doesn’t bring me joy. It makes me wonder how we became a society that values cheap plastic crap over toys of quality, interactive games, and things that require imagination. More often the mounds of gifts just depresses me. And not having family nearby does eliminate a certain level of stress. Not that we don’t love our family, but trying to juggle schedules while keeping the peace between the members we can see and those we can’t does create tension- as many of you probably know.
What it comes down to is that for many people, Christmas is more often like the holiday themed disaster movies we so love to watch than the ideal presented to the masses, and for which so many of reach. While I’ve accepted this, it’s still cold and grey outside and 2016 wasn’t our best year – there was a lot of loss, stress, and uncertainty. I could really use a large dose of Christmas Spirit right now. But instead, I’ll have to make do with a peppermint in my hot cocoa and our Christmas tree glowing in the darkness.