December 25, 2006

Christmas Day

At our house we celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday. That is, we're not Christians, and so we celebrate it not as The Birthday Of Christ Which We Celebrate By Giving Presents To Each Other, but instead as a holiday of pine trees and sparkling lights and special foods and pretty cards and thousands of years of winter holiday traditions.

This has caused some unrest in my family of origin and in Paul's, since both of those families have always considered it a holiday that belongs rightly only to people who are Christians. Anything else is a secular bastardization. If you don't worship Jesus, you don't get twinkling strings of lights, cookies with little sprinkles, or a new stereo.

I am lucky, in that my family doesn't push it. In fact, they will go too far the other direction: not wanting to sing Christmas carols, for example, because many have religious themes and we might feel pressured. Not wanting to say grace before Christmas dinner, since we might feel cornered. We feel like recovering alcoholics: "No, no, please go ahead. We have to learn to deal with these everyday situations."

Paul's family has no problem pushing it. His mom will tell us that she went to the Christmas Eve service, and that she doesn't understand "people" who don't go to the Christmas Eve service: it's not Christmas without church. She'll send the children Bible story books. Paul's dad laughs about how Robert has never believed in Santa Claus, but then he'll turn serious and say, "But that worries me: Does he believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?" Listen, all I'm saying is that the child doesn't believe in culture-based fictional characters invented to elicit good behavior from the masses. Interpret that as you will, old man.

What a cheery Christmas entry! I am feeling a little cranky because Christmas is over and we still haven't celebrated it. I had thought it would feel good: that normally the fun would be over but instead ours was still coming. It does not feel good. It feels like this is a holiday that is enhanced by so many people doing the same things at the same time. It feels like we missed it, and that any celebration we do in two days will be a sham, like when you have stomach flu on your birthday and try to make up for it a week later. It's not the actual day any more, and that matters.

Just as when you're throwing up on your birthday, though, it's still a special day. This is still a special day; it is still Christmas. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, in our way or in any of the many other possible ways. And merry good wishes to everyone else.


Kathryn said...

Ha, sorry to keep commenting, but I keep finding so many comment-worthy entries. My husband and I are similarly non-religious from religious backgrounds. Our families choose to ignore it, for the most part, but we had an interesting conversation with his parents a couple years ago.

J's sister: "J doesn't believe in Jesus."
J: "Oh, I believe he existed, I'm just not buying into all that 'son of God' hoopla."
J's dad: "But J, don't you want to go to heaven?!"
J and I: "Umm. Do you see how wanting to go to heaven might be sort of beside the point if you didn't believe that Jesus was God's son? No? Oh. Well."

Swistle said...

Kathryn- Ha ha, that's great! Also: I love that you're commenting on these old posts! It's fun!