While I am happy for all of you who celebrate this time of year with genuine joy and affection and meaning, we have to make room in our celebrations for people’s real pain. Their real experiences. Their real selves. Too often I observe how many of my own friends expect others to celebrate the season a certain way. For example, “It’s not Christmas if you don’t get together with family”. Not everyone has family. Some family members are on a military assignment elsewhere, in jail, the nursing home, at work, the bar, getting a divorce, shooting heroin, on a missions trip, dying, moving, coming out of the closet, home bound, bed bound, driving an 18 wheeler, or celebrating a different religious tradition. Furthermore, not everyone has family they like to spend any amount of time with.
I like that everyone has different Christmas experiences, traditions, and expectations. And that is what makes Christmas so beautiful to me. I am drawn to those who celebrate differently from the mainstream. One year, my dad and I were together for Christmas alone and decided to take a drive up to the mountains, I think somewhere on the Cajon pass, and hike. I’ve told some of you about this. And some of the some of you reacted as if I was out of sorts because I was not sitting by the tree with a turkey in the oven. One person said, “how sad”. I was rather insulted by this. Why can’t I celebrate the birth of Christ with a backpack, boots, a trail, and my dad who, by the way, feels much like I do? And so what if my Christmas tree was nothing more than a tall oscillating fan adorned with some handmade decorations, later found tipped over due to a cat attacking it. God is not keeping score of how many lights you’ve hung on tree, and all the gifts you’ve bought. Sometimes I think He rolls His eyes and nods His head at the nonsense on this dysfunctional planet.
This is the worst time of year to have the TV on the mainstream networks or just looking at adverts. TV is good for favorite movies and horse racing. But it is easy to become wrapped up (no pun intended) with the suffocating holiday shopping ads and Hallmark stories that do not accurately represent a large population of the northern hemisphere’s families gripped in this inescapable force we call Christmas and the sheep mentality that we must behavior a certain way. I’d like to say I refuse it but I’m stuck with it because I share space with other humans (not referring to my family). I want to see this season presented with different angles of celebration and not so much excess. There are days this time of year I want to go somewhere and see not holiday decorations, shopping ads, the force of the season. I want to celebrate my Savior’s birthday but I don’t want to drown in garland, lights, wrapping paper doing so. At least on Yom Kippur, no one’s chasing after me with a Yamaka. And I’ll say “Happy Holidays” if I want to.