I’ve never been a religious person, in any kind of traditional organized way. My religious views could best be described as Secular Humanist. I believe that people are capable of morality and ethics without the threat of an all-seeing, all-judging God to keep us on the straight and narrow. In fact, I think when we can choose this path without the fear of reprisal from a deity pointing a finger, we are much the better for it. I believe that human kindness (to animals, to each other, to ourselves, to the earth) is the most powerful force in the universe. I believe that there is power beyond ourselves, and that we are sometimes able to tap into it to profound effect. But celebrating the birth of Jesus, rampant consumerism and obligatory gift giving…not so much.
So, the time between Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday – surprise), and New Years is always a bit trying for me. My Christmas experiences growing up (with the exception of one holiday weekend spent in a hotel in Twin Falls Idaho with my father when I was 6 or 7) were pretty much a bust. The gifts were generally disappointing, the adults distracted with their own holiday angst, my friends ensconced with their own families.
For years, I’ve tried to embrace the whole “make your own traditions” mantra. I put up a tree (a real one, for the aromatherapy effect) decorated with unusual ornaments collected from various travels, baked cookies to send to friends and family, wrote the Christmas letter (usually mailed sometime around MLK day). I’ve worked to let go of unrealistic expectations, of family and friends, of myself, and tried to embrace the warmth of the season. But as my friend Rachel Turiel put it recently in her blog:
I still don’t really get Christmas. Apparently there is still a teenage rebel within who wants to know what Jesus’s birth has to do with obligatory gift buying. It makes me twitchy to think of kids expecting a pile of gifts on Dec 25th. I don’t quite get the magic of that.
I love giving gifts. I hate giving them at obligatory times. I try to practice gratitude and value the people I love every day, not just during the months of November and December. I don’t need, or want, more store-bought stuff. I secretly hate the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I desperately want George to go to Europe, see the world, have an adventure.
And this year, I’ve hit a wall. The big fat “I’m exhausted by this holiday and I’m tired of pretending I enjoy it” wall. Stores playing EVERY SINGLE VERSION of every Christmas song ever recorded, no matter how bad, in order to fill up the 500 open for business hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The jewelry commercials on TV, leaving you to believe that women all desperately want an expensive bobble on a string in lieu of your active participation in their lives on a daily basis. The ongoing debate on Facebook about using the phrase “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas”. The houses using fossil fuel at prodigious rates in order to light up the night with plastic blow-up Wal-Mart snow men and chimney Santa. The relentless food drives (are these people not just as hungry in July, when we’ve all forgotten about them?). The guilt of walking past the bell-ringer, saying hello, and NOT putting anything into the bucket. I’m just so DONE with all of it.
My parents are deceased. My husband’s son is in his early 20’s in Portland (he’s coming for a visit around New Years). My husband is somewhat estranged from his own parents and they are not nearby. We’re both only children. We have no small children with which to rekindle the fantasy of Santa or a warm family get-together to look forward to (not that they were all that warm to begin with). So, this year, I’m fully embracing my Scrooge: no tree (and the endless needles to clean up, the decorations to put back away, and the dead sad tree to dispose of – though the goats would have appreciated it), no Christmas songs (I’m actively turning the station when they come on, unless it’s Joni Mitchel’s “River” or Kenny Loggins “Celebrate Me Home”), no fretting about mailing gifts to far-flung friends and relatives before the big day. No dragging a boyfriend or husband along on the “let’s make our own traditions” slog, when they really just weren’t all that into it to begin with. (In my almost 30 years of living with men, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one suggest getting out the Christmas decorations on their own).
I know that there are people out there who profoundly love the Christmas holiday, for a whole slew of reasons, be they religious or just an unrestrained delight in twinkly lights. For many, this IS the one time of year that their family makes an effort to get together and they really DO enjoy each others company. If this is your holiday, revel in it. I salute you. Me, I’m celebrating the lengthening of days now that we’re past the winter solstice. We’ll gain about a minute a day from now on. For me, THAT is something to celebrate.
And so, I leave you with this yuletide meta prayer (that I stole from a Facebook feed about 6 months ago). It was accompanied by a beautiful picture of a man and an elephant, both kneeling, forehead to forehead. It hangs on my office wall.
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature
May all beings be free
~ Namaste (which roughly translates as “the spirit in me honors the spirit in you”)…oh, and Happy Holidays!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where we’re waiting for the reflective nature that the end of the year always brings on, but right now, I need to go buy straw bedding for the goats and sheep.