Wednesday, December 20, 2006

holidays, this year

I've moved further away from Christianity and Jesus since last Christmas. I finally understand why and am appreciative when people say, "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Our town is quite diverse, and while most are probably Christian or of Christian heritage, there are plenty who are Jewish, Muslim, African-American celebrators of Kwanzaa, pagans, secularists, etc.

Not that I've abandoned Christmas. It has a highly-developed secular side. We've put up a Christmas tree because it's part of our heritage, happy childhood memories, and because Christmas can be celebrated quite well as a secular holiday. So many of the symbols of Christmas time are really pagan symbols anyway--the Yule log, the wreath, mistletoe, candles.

I've even put up that nativity set that has sentimental value; I just haven't bothered to keep it in order. We use the camel to hold open the entertainment center door. Whatever. My son doesn't have any interest in it. And that's fine with me. I thought of taking him to a Sunday Christmas church service at a local liberal Protestant church, because his friends will be in the program. My husband would rather not, though, because growing up in America, he'll get plenty of exposure to Jesus and Christianity; it's not like we need to go seek it out. Jesus can be a little in-your-face in the US.

I still cringe a little when Jesus-oriented Christmas songs come on the radio. And I don't really care for secular Christmas songs either. In general, they are overdone and overly cheesy. And yet I found myself humming O Holy Night, and singing Silent Night to my son at bedtime. Because it's just a pretty song to him. He's not going to ask what the hell "round yon virgin mother" means.

The main difference about this year is we're staying home. Mostly that had to do with flights being too expensive. But I'm glad. This is the first year we'll have Christmas with just us, our family of three. It's validating, like we're finally our own family. And it's a bit of a relief: we can avoid Jesus, and do it our own way. It also made Christmas more festive, since we actually put up a tree and decorated it. We'd never done that with our son. The ornaments have memories attached to them; the lights twinkle in a comforting way; the smell of the pine hits when I walk in the door and it makes me smile.

We've also incorporated a little Hanukkah this year. Last year we talked about it, but didn't do anything. This year, our son has several Jewish friends and learned about the different December holidays in preschool. One day, he announced, "We have Christmas; David has Hanukkah. But we are still friends." So we set out a makeshift menorah and have been lighting candles every night. Since we don't know the appropriate Hebrew song to accompany the lighting of the candles, I made up a new ritual. With each candle we light, we say the name of a person we love. It gets us thinking about family and connections, and I like that.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Happy Holidays, FTA. I wish you well.

wry catcher said...

Gah. So I got all whiny AND wished you a happy xmas in my prior comment. Two, two, two gaffes in one. Oy, some days I should stay away from the keyboard.

So, happy holidays, FTA, and I hope you enjoy your family celebration. :-)