Ah, the holiday season has arrived. And so has my curmudgeonly attitude. The brassy sounds of Christmas jingles accost me in every public space, harried shoppers are rushing through the stores snapping at their spouses, and I am once again wondering why it is that everyone has decided this is “the most wonderful time of the year”. Really? Not spring, when all of the fresh flowers are abloom? Not your birthday, when everyone gathers together to celebrate one more year of your extraordinary life? Not summer, with the warm sun beating on your shoulders and reflecting off the water? Alright, well…to each their own, I guess.
Listen, I’m not a total Grinch. To me, the first snow is pure, romantic magic. It fills me with so much longing and joy, I can hardly sleep for days. Christmas lights shining from a pine-scented tree are genuinely one of my favorite sights. And I find the chords of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” so stirring, I’m often brought to tears. But, despite these cherished joys, I want to give my loved ones a few reasons why I won’t be celebrating Christmas with you this year, and possibly every year after.
First, the presents. I don’t want to join the stressful crowd of people clamoring to find the perfect piece of crap for everyone they know, just because the date on the calendar is December 25th. I would rather surprise you with a gift on some random day in June, simply because I saw it and was thinking of you. As a person who constantly battles having too much stuff cluttering up my life, I don’t want to burden you out of some misplaced sense of guilt or obligation. I want to bless you when I give you a tangible token of my affection for you. And that seems less likely to happen at this time of year.
Second, the false joy. I know way too many people who are suffering and feel obliged to put on a happy face and pretend everything is great, just because it’s the holidays. I myself have experienced some of the worst times of my life between the months of November and January. You cannot plan your heartbreak and joy around dates on the calendar, and I’m tired of the pressure for everyone to do so.
Third, the Christian privilege. Frankly, I think it’s bullshit that our supposedly neutral government prioritizes holidays associated with the Christian tradition by making them national holidays, while forcing people who follow other faith traditions to work around a normal schedule during their own holidays. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, imagine working in a restaurant while you’re fasting for the month of Ramadan. Or trying to celebrate Hanukkah in a meaningful way with your children being barraged by images of Santa and Jesus while prepping for the exams they’re expected to take before schools let out for Christmas break. Or having to take time off, in order to fully engage in the renewal and celebration of Diwali. There is a certain cognitive dissonance that is required when we force people from other faith traditions to observe the “holiday season” while pretending that our nation is one which separates church and state. It isolates and others non-Christians from “American” society. And I’m not about to just ignore that.
So, please understand that I’m not trying to be a Grinch when I bow out for the season. I love life, and gifts, and bright, shiny things just as much as the rest of you. But, I want to live a principled life based on inclusion, intention, and honesty. For me, celebrating Christmas just doesn’t jive with that.
So, to all of you celebrating or not celebrating, I will just offer this sincere wish: may you know the magic, beauty and richness of life in every season.