Sunday, September 16, 2012

Clarifications: Christmas on the Defensive

Apparently, I live here.

Since I posted about my decision to not celebrate Christmas this year I have gotten some interesting feedback, particularly from my own family. When I first posted, the responses were along the lines of "so, we're not celebrating Christmas this year?" or "Does this mean you're not coming up here for Christmas?" or my personal favorite, "Why do you hate Christmas?"  It is now obvious to me that there is some need for clarification.

To answer the first question, there is no real "we" in my decision so far as my family is concerned.  Deciding to focus on Yule this year is my decision for my personal spiritual path.  This doesn't mean that I expect (or even want) everyone to stop doing Christmas.  Really, what do I care if my family celebrates Christmas?  It seems kind of silly to get all up in their business about it.  And although I won't be celebrating Christmas this year, there will still be Christmas lights and Christmas tress and Christmas decorations in my house because- DUH- I'm not the only one who lives there.  Our house is a shared space, and I have no problem with the rest of the household celebrating their winter holidays however they want.  Bring on the holiday cheer!

We can share, right?

In response to the second question, no, I probably will not be going up north for Christmas, but not because of Christmas itself.  I probably won't go up because it's expensive to take the Amtrak there and back, and I'm poor. Also, I work on Christmas eve every year, and it is a HUGE hassle to do a full day at work, run to the Amtrak with like 4 bags of luggage full of presents, spend umpteen dollars for tickets and Amtrak food, just so I can be on time for Christmas day (ONE DAY, out of the whole year!), and then leave on the 26th to be on time for work that day.  And for those of you out there thinking, "Why don't you just ask for a week off, so you can spend a few days before and after Christmas with family?"  You obviously have never worked at the bottom of the totem pole in retail.  Us poor retail veterans know that the holiday season is the biggest, most chaotic time of the year for retail stores-- most of you know how it is to shop on Black Friday, but do you know how it feels to WORK on Black Friday?-- hours are extended, hundreds of seasonal workers are hired to accommodate the rush of holiday shoppers, and the madness doesn't stop until every gift has been exchanged or returned on New Year's day.  Do you know what that means? Let me tell you: it means that for many retail stores the whole holidays season gets blocked for vacation days.  Sure, if you're a store manager or one of the higher ups, there's a big chance you get 2 weeks off for your own Christmas vacation. Good for you. But if you are a seasonal worker, or just someone who is new to the company, good luck getting time off. Sure, you'll get Christmas day to yourself, but Christmas eve? Forget about it. And be prepared to come back to work on the 26th. Consumerism waits for no one.

That's not to say that I won't ever go up to visit mi familia up north, just probably not on Christmas.  And seriously, is it going to be less of a family get-together if it's not on Christmas day? No.

And in response to the last question... This is the one that gets me the most, for reasons that people perhaps don't realize.  The question itself says something about the person asking it-- they are assuming that 1) everyone who is important celebrates Christmas and 2) if you don't want to celebrate it, it must be because you're mean/selfish/misguided/a huge grinch. I'm so surprised by this question because it usually comes from people who I previously thought were progressive or mindful, and the question itself seems to ignorant and elitist to me that I am caught off guard.  Not everyone in the US celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday; I know it's a complete shock to you that there are non-Christians out there who have other holidays that trump Christmas, but let's try to think out of the white-protestant-American box, shall we? There are other holidays in December and January; that's why they call it the holiday season.  There's not just one!  And for many religions, Christmas is not a holy day!  The birth of Jesus is not in every sacred text on the planet, people.  That kind of thinking is close-minded and does a disservice to men and women of different faiths in America (and the world), making them invisible.

Also, there is the fact that not even all Christians celebrate Christmas!  It is a center of heated debate about the religious validity of the holiday-- arguments against it include the fact that Jesus wasn't actually born on the 25th of december (or even in winter, for that matter), the fact that nowhere in the bible does it require Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the issue of Christmas's pagan origins (to name a few). If you want more info on that, check out this page or this page to learn more about the day Jesus was born and here to see an example of Christian Christmas dissenters.

So, to answer the last question, no. I don't hate Christmas. And I'm sure the billions of people who also don't celebrate it aren't grinches about it either. A better question would be why does me not celebrating Christmas make you so angry?  What about me celebrating my own faith holidays is so threatening to you?  Can't we all just get along?


Even though I self-identify as pagan, I could celebrate Christmas if I wanted to.  After all, it has morphed into a secular holiday.  Many interfaith families celebrate Christmas in addition to their other religious holidays.  And that's awesome. However, many other families let choose to celebrate their winter holidays exclusively, and that's awesome too. One way is not better than the other.  After much thought I have decided that for me, the best thing would be to focus on my spiritual path and the winter holidays that come with it.  And I am really excited to put all of my holiday energy into that; I have some serious holiday cheer.  So, I encourage all those out there who don't understand why anyone in the world would not want to celebrate Christmas to maybe be a little less judgemental, and a little more compassionate and open-minded.  'Tis the season, right?

Celebrate Diversity!

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