It is December. And Christmas is coming. I really enjoy this holiday. Never really had a reason to question why. There are shiny baubles and presents and music and friends and trees in the house and an excuse to wear obnoxious sweaters and hats. I’m not religious at all. Not deluded into thinking this is a birthday for the son of the almighty in the sky. I’m not interested in making this about something spiritual. But I love it. Go all out Griswold style love it.
Not everyone around me does. Some don’t care. Some downright oppose the season. And since I love my friends and want to understand better why there’s a vehemence towards what I consider a rather innocuous excuse to buy presents, I asked “why?” to one particular friend and was answered with the refreshing honesty I’ve come to expect from him. His reasons are beyond valid and I respect them. What’s more it made me ask myself why I love the season.
So I explained it to my friend as best I could. And you’re super lucky. Since now you’re here reading this and you get to hear too.
I grew up poor and moving around a lot. There was some other stuff too. Things weren’t always rosy. But I remember the Christmases. They were times of quiet. Family. Joy. Quite literally as a child i remember thinking, this is joy. I remember one year we were living in a house in Utah, so poor. The floor was plywood over dirt. There were so many mice. The dog had puppies in that house. I remember it being a big house, but it was like there had been a fire in a portion of it and we didn’t go into that part. I can’t remember there being a kitchen either, which is odd, I remember the kitchens in the other houses.
So here it is, Christmas in this little house (which may have been a trailer, now that I think of it) and my dad goes out and comes back with a little tree (which I think he cut down somewhere near town, which wasn’t even a town yet, we were there because dad was installing powerlines, so it was more like a pit stop on it’s way to becoming a town). And me and mom strung some popcorn on string and hung that and there were some bottle cap ornaments and we made a slurpee cup into an angel. And Christmas morning there were presents (this was also the year the mice climbed the tree and SOOO many mice went to the top after the popcorn that the whole tree toppled) and the presents were toys I already owned just wrapped up but I was too little to care.
There were more years like this. In the chaos that was sometimes my childhood (often times) there are only good memories surrounding Christmas. Small trees and humble gifts in the lean years and too many to even count in the good years. Sometimes we’d visit family (when we weren’t on the move) sometimes family lived with us. I don’t remember it being much about anything religious, although I did do a Christmas pageant or two at the local methodist church when we were living in one spot long enough for that to happen, even though mom was Catholic. I think I went with friends and ended up singing in the play because 1) I could read and 2) I could sing.
Anyway, let’s fast-forward. I’m in sixth grade and we’ve moved to Arizona. I’m gearing up for halloween and Turkey day and Christmas when we suddenly start going to church again. No big. Only this church means no more holidays. None. So it’s October and it’s announced to me that this is it. No more christmas in our household. And so it goes. Instead of waking up to tinsel and presents, its bitter resentment and mockery of the “world” just like every other single day of the year. And this goes on for the next 14 years (I was thinking it was more like 20, but math is not my strong suit). I live this way at home with family and then again under the roof of my first husband.
Now things happen. The ex is exed. I’m living on my own in an apartment near Greenlake in Seattle (sigh, I miss you Emerald City). I’ve got a new lover. He’s amazing. And it’s Christmas. And I ask him to go buy me a tree. Only he does one better. We go all out. Ridiculously so. We go buy a tree, we go to Ikea and Costco and wipe out their entire Christmas ornament selections. He buys me Christmas music CDs to listen to in my car adn at home and anywhere I want. Christmas morning is fantastic and we open our well-planned presents. He brings me stollen and orange juice in bed. And a new Christmas is born. We start mingling his traditions with what I remember of mine. We argue over a tree topper, no stars, no angels, until we find the perfect one; it’s a tree. that goes on top of a tree. Irony. Every year it’s a debate over the mini lights or the C9s. And now that we have a kid there are new traditions. Stockings first. Eggs and toast. Advent calendars even though none of us know what Advent means.
And it is more than a holiday for me. I shed a way of living the first time I propped that pagan symbol of renewal and rebirth in my living room. I was shucking years of being told that i needed to forget those good memories associated with the holiday. I was throwing off the patriarchal yoke of a religion that expressed a general disgust at the rest of the world while preaching love and humility from it’s platforms. Celebrating Christmas is a big “fuck you” to that feeling that I need an invisible spirit being to tell me to be good and that if I’m not, said being will smote me and mine. I don’t deny there’s an irony to it. Celebrating what is intended as the most Christian of holidays with gusto, because it’s my own little rebellion against a Christian religion.
So when my friend tells me this and that reason for not wanting to celebrate, I dig. I’d argue that I do indeed sing Frosty the Snowman in July and have been known to belt out O Holy Night in my car on long trips regardless of the time of year (so there). But I’m glad the conversation arose. And I’m glad I’ll have this new tradition with friends of them poking fun at my ridiculousness and me sneaking shatterproof ornaments into their front yard landscaping when they aren’t looking. Because Christmas is that for me. A constant flux of adding good to my life. Of remembering good things over the bad, of reminding myself that I love to give presents and should do it more often. And it’s really just another day in a life where I try my best, most imperfect, damnedest to be good to those around me and show them love whenever I can. If it can be that for you, that’s great. If it can’t. That’s great too. I promise not to put reindeer antlers on your car when you aren’t looking if you can promise not to roll your eyes when someone wishes you Merry Christmas at the local stop and go.
This is quite rambly. I guess the main take away is this; whatever your reasons for doing what you do. You do those things. Do them with gusto. Blow out the power grid with your minis or C9s and eat too much gingerbread and wreck your credit if that’s your thing. And if its not, that’s cool too. We can still be friends.