Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas: Heavy on Santa, Light on Church

Whenever people complain about how Christmas is too secular, too commercial, too consumerist, and that the country is going to hell in a hand basket because too many American families are missing the point of Christmas entirely, I think they’re talking about my family.  Actually, I know they are talking about my family, because my family isn’t even the kind of family who pretends they’re going to go to church and then something something blah blah blah they couldn’t go this year because of whatever reason.  We were never going to go, and if we were, what church would we attend?

My family is decidedly secular.  Christmas, for us, has always been much more about gathering ‘round the fireplace and Santa and snowmen than little baby Jesus.  And so when people rail against all the Americans who’ve lost their way, I guess they’re talking about us.

But I don’t think we have lost our way.  (I guess technically, we never had it.) Christmas today in America is mainly about family, and togetherness, and yes, giving.  (Getting is, of course, a byproduct of the giving, but that’s the fine print.)  My family celebrates all of those things.  I can’t wait to come home to my parents’ house for some home cooked meals, some Christmas Vacation, and (hopefully) seeing the faces of my loved ones light up when they open that just-right present for which I scoured the mall or amazon or etsy for days. 

We, as people, need tradition. It makes us feel good to get together and do the same ritual every year that we’ve done since we were kids, that our parents and their parents did before us in only slightly different ways.  In our workaholic society we need an excuse to leave our jobs and the everyday prattle of our own lives to go and just hang out on the couch for a couple days with our parents without feeling like we should be *doing* something.

I have a good friend at work who is Indian, and decidedly not Christian, but she still wanted to decorate her cube for Christmas.  I was taken aback; I guess I’m so used to hearing that everyone should hate on Christmas because it stomps all over all the other holidays (which, admittedly, it does) that it took me by surprise.  I asked her why, and she just told me she doesn’t care what the religion associated with a tradition is, she just loves festivals, and celebrating with other people.  As a person who has been to my share of religious and cultural events that I’m technically not a member of, I love that.  I’m not saying, of course, that everyone should just drop their traditions and celebrate Christmas with all us secular heathens and/or evangelist Christians, but I like the sentiment.  It could probably use some more use in our competitive my-religion-or-culture-is-better-than-yours atmosphere.

For whatever reason, the end of the year is when we celebrate togetherness and love and hope for a brighter future.  Just because my family doesn’t go to church (neither a nor your) doesn’t make this time of year any less special for us.  Any excuse to get off work and hang out with my family is good enough for me.


Lyla said...

Couldn't agree with you more..some people are just so focused on proving their religion is superior than the rest that they miss a valuable opportunity to enjoy all the festivities that many cultures and religions have to offer...these days it's getting harder to find reasons to we shouldn't pass up an opportunity to have some good natured fun...i am keeping my religion but i still try to take part in all such festivities with my friends whether it xmas, eid, hanukkah or diwali..and I can't care less what anyone thinks of me.. :)

B.Graham said...

I learned about Diwali this year and I love it!

Cody G. said...

I completely agree. I really hate the Christmas hate I see every year. I know very few, if any, people who actually celebrate Christmas for the Christian undertones. Yes, Christmas is derived from Christian roots, but honestly, on a mainstream standpoint, it's just a fun holiday. What with all the christmas carols, characters and traditions, from Santa to Frosty to Rudolph, to gift giving, christmas trees, gingerbread houses, candy canes, nutcrackers, christmas lights and decorations, and an innumerable amount more. There are plenty of families that do the nativity scenes among other more religious aspects of Christmas, and perhaps I'm the one who's ignorant, but honestly even amongst my Christian friends, many of them are more concerned about the fat man bringing gifts to their family. Sacrilegious as that sounds, and I don't mean to offend anyone, but Christmas to me is a time of togetherness. It makes no difference what religion you are, unless that means atheists and agnostics aren't allowed to participate in the gift-giving?. A lot of people think way too much about "true meanings" of things and not enough people accept things for what they are. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, who cares? They're all their own holidays but it's all an act of giving to and from loved ones so there's no sense in villainizing any of them.

Kathleen said...

Etsy is my fav!