I was talking with a friend today about our feelings toward Christmas.
She observed that most people she knows claim either to love it or to hate it. Some take special joy and comfort in the trappings of the season. Others carry them as a weight, fraught with negative associations, something more to be endured than enjoyed. (A few try to ignore the holiday altogether.)
My friend found it refreshing that i don’t have strong feelings about the season in either of those two common directions. What i do take from it, i take quietly.
When my children were little i delighted in making the season delightful for them – more because of people than things, though. There was no worry about them discovering the ‘truth’ about Santa, because in our family he was always a winked-at fiction — like being ‘in’ on an inside joke.
Now that they are adults, we are all on the same page as to the centrality of spending time together in as relaxed a way as possible. Gifts may or may not be involved — no strings there. They have other friends and family they visit, and i aim to make their time at my home the least pressured stop they make around the holidays.
They are well aware of a couple of issues i do take with the season, which are not unique to me. The first is the fostering of consumerism, the mentality pushed by advertisers that things will make one happy. (I say, if you must take your children to see a Santa, how about teaching them to ask for a gift for their friend or for a less fortunate child.)
I realize many people emphasize their faith as a way of countering the focus on ‘stuff’ — which touches on the second issue for me. The religious aspect isn’t part of my Christmas experience either. As someone who doesn’t share the christian faith, i am still glad, however, for that positive impulse arising from it.
The notion of a creator stepping into that very creation in total vulnerability is a startling and appealing one. It can encourage us to celebrate connection.
And wherever we find ourselves as to our outlook on the season, the story can also spur us toward caring for the vulnerable in our own neighborhood and in our world.