“Dear Christmas. Stop it. You’re a religious holiday in December. Stop being so fat that you take over two months.”
The above is a friend’s Facebook status. It has a lot of truth in it.
It also is talking to me directly.
Because for me, Christmas sock season starts Nov. 1. I have so many pairs, they require two months. I played Christmas music, lit a pine candle and got out some holiday decorations two weeks ago to take Jac & Elsie Christmas photos (you canNOT get into the Christmas mood surrounded by jack-o-lanterns, and I needed some help). I bought my first Christmas gifts in early April. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” could be written to me (oh, my God, that video).
But the above status brings up a very interesting point: I’m not really a religious person. I don’t believe babies are born without the sex happening. Which, by definition, kind of bars me from Christianity, despite my promising upbringing. I was a Catholic school girl from kindergarten to fifth grade, complete with little navy plaid uniform. Our school put on Christmas plays that the parents hated because they centered around the blessed birth where the prettiest eighth grade girl got to play Mary when, really, the best part was the second graders singing Christmas carols while that weird boy in the back picked his nose. (There was no talking in our play. It was just music, and it was boooooring.)
My family went to church on Christmas eve and listened to the story of Jesus’ birth and admired the nativity scene the priest created around the alter. (I’m remembering small farm animals, but I may be misremembering that.)
But those religious stirrings in my childhood did not develop into full-blown PRAISE THE BABY JESUS in my adulthood. And it has made me wonder: Is Christmas not for me, then? It celebrates a virgin birth, which I don’t believe in, so is it somehow mocking Christians that I get so excited for their holiday, even though I disregard the whole point behind it?
I’m certain some would say yes, it absolutely does. And while I think Christmas likely has more meaning for those who celebrate it in the way it is intended, I don’t think that therefore makes it devoid of meaning for me. Instead, Christmas time is about the spirit and the feeling of the holiday. When I decorate my home, I am filled with love — it’s made of both the memories of decorating trees in my childhood and the knowledge that I am creating new memories with my husband. I even keep a small notebook in my box of ornaments and write a little note about where I am and what’s going on. Each year, I see that notebook that only gets updated twice a year (putting the tree up, and taking it down).
It’s a time to tell folks that you love them. Sure, I don’t need Christmas to buy a friend a gift to say “I love you,” but gathering together with people who live far apart and opening gifts is fun. It’s fun to see what reminds others of you, and it’s even more fun to see their face light up if you happen to choose the right item.
I love my Christmas traditions, especially the ones I’m creating now. My husband and I have taken to switching Thanksgiving and Christmas back and forth each year between his family, near where we live, and my parents, who live three hours away. This year, I get to have the holiday at my parents’, and I’m so excited I could pop.
Last year was the first Christmas I did not spend with my parents; it was delightful. I missed seeing them, surely, but our Dec. 24 consisted of stuffing our faces at my in-laws with Jeff’s brother and grandpa. Our Dec. 25 entailed sleeping in, opening our gifts to one another, a horribly failed breakfast casserole (oh, dear God, it was so bad) and staying in our pjs on the couch until dinnertime. He watched sports; I read books I had received the night before. It was a sweet kind of magic — cozy, loving, new, exciting, promising: It promised my future. It showed me the life I had created with this man who was, at the time, my fiance, and it showed me what Christmases to come would hold. And I was so full of promise and joy.
So I think it’s OK for a non-Christian to appreciate the holiday, even if the root of that word is “holy.” I think I have plenty of other reasons to celebrate, and I appreciate having a time of the year when the world slows down and celebrates, too.