this has been a changing thing for me.
as a child, in a catholic household, christmas was a mix of midnight mass and stories of the birth of Jesus, and santa claus, christmas trees, and buying presents for each other. being an only child, and having a working mother and a widowed grandmother, we tended to go all out with the presents. it was the same every year. christmas was about going to midnight mass to see the statue baby Jesus put in the manger. then home to sleep a few hours, and wake up to a room full of presents.
as a teenager in a mixed family, I was confronted with different family traditions, but mom and I still more or less followed the same pattern as before. the catholic elements werent shared by the rest of the household. they werent even christians, so the secular elements were more central. actually, the gift giving was the center of the holiday. nothing else was considered special. christmas was still about getting presents, but somehow it was emptier.
as an adult on my own, having abandoned catholicism, I found christmas to be rather barren. many colliding traditions, but no real meaning. the birth of Jesus meant a great deal to me, because without it there would not have been a suitable redeemer for anyone. but somehow I just couldn’t connect His birth to the christmas holiday the way other people seemed to. I couldn’t really relate to the other holiday traditions either. the whole santa thing still bores me.
but I don’t find christmas a bleak holiday anymore. all the trappings and lights and candy are great fun, and I don’t feel I am betraying God by enjoying them. I simply no longer try to mix traditions that contradict each other, or assign meaning to a date that isnt correct. I don’t care if I have the trappings or not. since I don’t find winter a bleak season, I don’t need a festive holiday to get me through it.
what I like is the opportunity to give. not because its expected, but because ive been blessed and I can share. I’m glad that there is so much buying this time of year, because it is a boon to our economy, and that means life for society as a whole. it also means more people are thinking more about others than they are about themselves. they may also be more open to the love God has for them, and His great gift.
I may not celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as a christmas thing, but I do celebrate it. I may not have a tree (too many cats in the house), or a family dinner (my relatives are all far away), or go to parties (bleh), or hang stockings (ya right). but I do have a festive heart this time of year, and the beau and I take great pleasure in the gift giving. we delight in giving to strangers who have nothing, to acquaintances who arent expecting it, to coworkers, and to my granddaughters. this year, having been hit by an injury on his job, our income is less for the moment, but our spirit is more. and God finds ways to enable us to give more.
without the headaches and stress of trying to keep up with traditions and expectations, im really free to actually enjoy this midwinter festival.