I’ve ALWAYS loved Christmas. I’ve always known the story of Christmas was a fable. I’m also not sure if Jesus was an actual person and I’m super suspicious of patriarchal religions.
I’m not a Christian, if I was going to describe my belief system…I’d say I am a secular humanist, but I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian sect that did not recognize Christmas because of it’s basis in pagan rituals. So, as a child, I remember only one Christmas when I was 3 that was my last Christmas with my family of origin. I did not have any Christmas until I left the religion and was in my 20’s in my own home.
But I have always loved Christmas, even the history of how it was created, is fascinating.
The Roman Empire grew by brute force and was ginormous. In order to keep all of these people with different beliefs happy, the Roman Empire allowed everybody within it’s borders to worship in their own ways as long as each group made offerings to the Roman gods. Most of the polytheistic religions were totally cool with this, but the monotheists (the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims) were not.
The Roman Empire was way more complicated than I have time to write about…but this general idea of allowing “conquered people” to keep their rituals kept the empire running for hundreds of years. The Roman empire was corrupt, was based on injustice, slavery, rape, classism, and brutality. This culture of injustice was a huge reason why the monotheistic movements rebelled against the establishment and gained power.
About 300 years after “Jesus” death the sect Christianity was gaining power in the Roman empire. Constantine the made a political move at the Council of Nicea and merged all the pagan earth based beliefs into the monotheist vision of one creator with a Son who is born of a virgin to be the “savior” followed by 12 men who is killed as a martyr, resurrected and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. When Rome fell, the Catholic Church was born. For a thousand years there were the Dark Ages, The Crusades and the Reformation. Through it all, these pagan holidays held Christianity together. Human beings are creatures of ritual, and how better to be able to control the masses than by group ritual.
With all that knowledge… I totally love Christmas even more.
Now, I’m sure traditional Christmas for most of you is family, church, trees, food, parties, drinking, shopping and presents.
Not for me.
At first, I loved Christmas at first because I could rebel against something that was forbidden in our house. Then Christmas was a time when I could make alot of money. Finally it turned into a time to be with my boyfriends and friends to share gifts, go to parties, dancing or cuddle in and just be.
As I write this blog, Christmas 2015… it’s just me. No love relationships. My single friends are all partnered up or married spending the holidays with their partners and new families. My immediate family of origin continues to not celebrate Christmas. It feels like it would be a kind of betrayal of my Mom to spend Christmas with them. Yet, I wanted to get out of NYC for a bit, so I came to Virginia to see my parents. This is crazy because in the past… the last place I would go for the holidays is to be with my no Christmas having family.
When I was in high school, I started that tradition of working during the holidays. I chose to work retail during Christmas so that I could be surrounded by the decorations, the shopping, the energy. Even when I moved to NYC, for many years I worked creating the holiday parties and experiencing Christmas from a place of service.
Then for a few years, I actually was in relationships during Christmastime and could actually celebrate with my boyfriends families. One of my exes family lived in Iowa, and I actually went there and celebrated Christmas with them. Trees, lights, snow, sleds, even mistletoe. One of my exes was Italian and Irish and I big Italian Christmas on Long Island eating all day and watching football into the night. I even spent Christmas on the beach in the Bahamas and Christmas at a yoga retreat in the Berkshires dancing and meditating. Man, I’ve had some wonderful Christmases in my lifetime so far.
I was hooked.
As I think back, I believe I started working really hard to get into a relationship in the summer, one of the reasons being, I wanted to have someone to share Thanksgiving and Christmas with.
But of course, the Universe can be a bitch and the last like 3 boyfriends I had broke up with me around Halloween, my most recent “ex”(the one who took me to the wonderful bit Italian Christmas with his awesome family) broke up with me, not just once, but twice right after Thanksgiving. The first breakup with him almost broke me apart, I spent that Christmas watching the first 5 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, and 2 seasons of Dexter in a month. Meredith, Christina everyone at Seattle Grace and Dexter saved me that winter.
After the second breakup with him during the holidays, I’ve decided to take a little vacation from relationships for a while.
In my holiday with me time, I have embraced my Christmas reality instead of an idea of what Christmas should be. I no longer feel like I need to be or do anything in order to run from what Christmas is for me. Instead, I embrace it on my own. I also feel no need to run and hide from my family in Virginia during this time of the year.
Christmas for me today is about, creativity, storytelling, magic, ritual, working out, reading and community. It’s the darkest time of the year, yet I feel the light and it is beautiful.
I don’t have to buy presents, for my family…I can be present with my family even though we have different belief systems, we share love. Through the years I’ve gained the wisdom of not engaging with talk about the holidays with them. Of course, I have to work hard to control what I say and how I am around them because I don’t want to have never-ending philosophical discussions that will just make me think that we are separate when we actually are all just one. I literally sometimes have nothing to say to connect with them so I just am with them while they are here because none of us are going to be here forever, when I breathe into the reality of that impermanence I can feel the unconditional love I have for them.
Christmas is a time when the world stops and we take time to just be. So for me, there will be no tree, no presents, no mistletoe or snow. But there will be love, warmth, Christmas music in my earbuds, and yes I will watch A Christmas Story at least 4 times in the next 3 days.
I look to the positive political prowess of Constantine as a kind of inspiration to surrender to the multiple realities of my unique Christmas.
It’s not about the presents…it’s about my presence. That’s the duality of Christmas…I embrace it for what it is pagan imperfect and awesome.
Merry Christmas Yall.
I found this great SPOTIFY playlist Acoustic Christmas to write to. Enjoy as you trim the tree, with some egg nog.
This post resonated with me on many levels. I was also raised in a fundamentalist religion (JW), so there was no Christmas. As a young adult/ post that religion, I did attempt to celebrate in a traditional way. At this juncture, I don’t celebrate per se, but I do love aspects of the holiday. Like you, I consider myself a secular humanist. That being said, I guess I’m still trying to figure out a way to navigate the holiday without the religious baggage. Thanks for making me look at it in a new way.
Even though I don’t believe what my family believes in their JW religion…I still love and believe in them.
As we all grow older, I seek to find ways to allow myself to show them the unconditional love I seek in other relationships and for the world. Starting at home is the best place to start and this attempt to connect with empathy and compassion is even better in many ways than actually connecting.
Anyway… I totally understand what you are going through and thank you for reading.