Without knowing for sure, it’s possible that I did a great disservice to my kids some years ago… I stopped celebrating Christmas, once and for all.
When I grew up, my parents were Presbyterians – so Christian – and we had lavish, overwhelming holidays with all the trimmings until my parents divorced. Then my mother tried to carry on that tradition on her own, but frankly a lot of it’s luster just flew out the window.
Even though everyone said it was about Jesus’ birth, to me it was about presents, lights on Christmas tree, big meals with people I hardly knew (my family) and the excitement of Christmas morning… oh, and did I say PRESENTS?!
When there wasn’t the same lavish celebrating at the end of the year, my young mind got confused. I’d always felt like all those traditions were great and giving presents to others so they knew how much I loved them (materialistically, I know, but whatever) was a good thing… Same for me getting presents so I knew everyone loved me back. The huge meals and family gatherings were fun, at least when my sisters and I were together… but all that changed once Dad moved out.
To her credit, my mother really tried to keep up the traditions but honestly, when you are mixing dried milk with whole milk to make it last longer for your 5 kids, getting them anything more than one small thing was prohibitive. Just like our tree that became much smaller and not so sparkely, oh and I’m pretty sure Dad got a lot of the ornaments anyway. Still she tried and we were mostly disappointed (and really ungrateful, I should add).
It didn’t help that our father left without much of a backward glance at his “first litter” (me and my 4 other sisters). He’d left us to be with my swimming coach who had two kids from the husband she’d left to be with my Dad & they had one on the way together. It was apparent that the second litter was far more important than we were, suddenly and completely…
There’s no doubt that those first years of their divorce created some profoundly negative emotion and some “Bah Humbug” for me around the subject of the holidays. Like going to church became for me (at ten yrs. old I decided that church was stupid but I was forced to go), Christmas carried the same lack luster appeal.
Then I had my own kids AND we had a bit of money… Oh Boy, did I LOVE to make Christmas fun… and adopted Channukah as well… (my kids’ dad was raised Jewish). Oh Joy! December was a month of pure hedonistic shopping, card writing, eating, celebrating and FUN.
Really, there isn’t anything more fun than watching a bunch of people who aren’t very good at eating, walking or talking, rip open huge and numerous boxes of toys as they drool and giggle. Probably the funnest mornings I’ve ever had.
Then I got divorced and Christmas again became really, really hard. The difference was I wasn’t as gracious as my mother and after a few years of trying to give my kids a nice Christmas, I threw in the towel. Keep in mind, I made up excuses like; “I celebrate Solstice” or “Honestly, I have always felt that Christmas was too commercialized” blah, blah, blah…instead of being honest.
If I had been 100% honest, the truth was I just couldn’t afford to “do” Christmas and it was really, really stressful. So much work! (My kids… I’m really, really sorry).
With age hopefully comes wisdom. Now, I’m unable to blow smoke up anyone’s ass about what I’ve done or what my reasons may have been. I’m admitting a terrible truth… I failed my kids when it comes to Christmas because I was overworked and underpaid.
This may be a measure of my depravity and/or an indication of my spiritual transience …
Or is it?
One of the many ways I healed myself after a number of difficult experiences in my life, was to look for ways that I could honestly express my overwhelming sense of spirituality.
When I considered how unctuous my own experience of Christianity had been growing up, as well as how little comfort I found through that avenue of faith it was imperative that I find another way to celebrate during Christmas.
The most obvious to me was the earth and the sky and I’d conducted circles for years, based on pagan rights and wicca. My kids were all very familiar with sacred space in that way, so it wasn’t all that hard to adopt Solstice as a celebratory day.
Problem with that is most of us have to work on that day. It’s not a recognized holiday… Not a Holy Day.
To me it is, but I’m still not quite that good at the present thing… and while everyone else is having dinners, etc. on Christmas, some of my kids and I are still wallowing around without a grocery store open or our usual playmates available… Both closed for the holidays.
Well, I do try my best to make this time of year about new beginnings and the essence of light returning after a long hard winter… in fact today I thought that a great way for me to spend next year’s holiday season is to give my time to others. I can be very loving.
We’ll see, but that may be the very best way for me to share my notion that as the light returns, every year, so does our individual sense of belonging and possiblity.
Tonight I’m joining my daughter and her bestest friend for an evening of movie watching and wine drinking (and food eating. Duh). We will celebrate life and enjoy each other…
I hope you enjoy your night and the subsequent morning and maybe you’ve found what I’ve found.
Christmas is not about presents, but it is about love. At least I hope that’s your experience.
Merry, happy, joyful DAY.