Today is Christmas…The keynote of the winter holidays around here. This is the day whose preparations have been keeping me busy and driving me nuts since Thanksgiving.
This year, I’ve felt rather empty about the whole thing.
It is the most commercialized holiday in modern life in the U.S. Period. The Christmas displays went up here in my corner of the world in September…Right alongside the Halloween costumes and gummy eyeballs to freak out the trick-or-treaters. (Or, in the case of most little boys, to make them say, “Cool!” and run off chasing screaming girls with them.) Let me just pause here to say that seeing nativity scenes and Santa Clauses next to gummy eyeballs was the weirdest thing. I’m not sure that sensory memory will ever leave.
Now that I’m an adult, it’s like the magic has gone out of it. Santa’s not coming. The giddy anticipation of what toys await me under the tree is gone. I can, theoretically, go buy myself the books and music and such that I want any time of the year since I am working and receiving a paycheck (for now).
Now that I’m an employed adult, I’m expected to go do the shopping, to join in with the hoards in racking up staggering credit card bills to receive in January. (I paid by debit card, so I would not do that.) I wanted to take the handmade pledge this year, but I floated that idea and my family shot it down, so…I schlepped through the stores like everyone else, trying to please the people on my list. (I did succeed, for the record, but not without stress and many, many hours of hunting through stores.) Not many were expecting gifts from me this year, thank goodness. I was so not into it for the most part.
As for the “reason for the season”, I haven’t been able to blindly believe as the religion I was raised in taught me to believe: that Jesus was most definitely born of a virgin in a Bethlehem stable, and was God–the one and only God–incarnate, while also, somehow, simultaneously being His Son and the Holy Spirit. I haven’t been able to latch onto the Biblical Literalist take on the holiday for some time. In recent years, I’ve considered it as a day to celebrate the birth of a son of God–we’re all God’s children, after all, according to various hymns and sermons and scriptures–and the birth of a great spiritual teacher, of a Prince of Peace. (Though how well said teacher’s/prince’s avowed followers are doing at living his teachings is debatable. ) I’ve looked at the connections between the birth of the Son and the Solstice’s rebirth of the Sun, at the common ties between winter holidays. (For more succinct thoughts on the commonalities of winter holidays, read this.)
Our family’s observance of the holiday went well. The presents were nice. The big family dinner was delicious, though I did overindulge and pay the price in late-night nausea last night. The big family brunch was even better today. There has been a lot of laughter and family comedy stories shared. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company. The family life side has been good.
But I still feel like something’s missing. The deeper something, the hushed stillness and spiritual depth of it feels slippery, like I can’t quite grasp it.
A few minutes ago, I opened Oprah’s Quote of the Day newsletter and found this quote. There it is! The core I’m trying to get at! This is what I want Christmas to be at its core for me, today and going forward into Christmases after this one:
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
— Agnes M. Pharo
Those are my wishes for us all: that we experience tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future, that our cups overflow with rich and eternal blessings, and that all our paths lead to peace, for us as individuals and for the world. I want to feel the light rise and break through the figurative clouds, to hold the hope that, though it may be dark in the depths of winter for us up here in the Northern Hemisphere, the light, both literal and figurative, is on its way back.
Happy holidays, everyone, whichever one(s) you celebrate!