Sunday, December 22, 2002

I really don't like or enjoy Christmas and never did, not even as a child. I also have a strong suspicion that this is a majority opinion, although most people skirt this issue instead of coming out and admitting it.

It's not at all a matter of religious dogma. I don't personally believe in supernatural phenomena, but I have no philosophical quarrel with the idea of religious holidays; in fact, I'm at least somewhat religious in some Unitarian Universalist sense of the word. I also enjoy seeing members of my family (from both the birth side and the marriage side). There are no deeply buried childhood traumas involved; nothing Dickensian or Ortonian to mess up the holiday meme for life. I was an only child who always got too many Christmas presents and was indulged to the extent of my extended family's means. And, I'm all for the idea of taking time off to feast and enjoy life.

The thing I can't stand is the artificiality. The standard American Christmas ritual reminds me of weddings, which are occasions that I don't much like either. What weddings and Christmas have in common is that they're monuments to ridiculously unimportant "perfection" that no one can define but which causes all sorts of stressed-out misery when people can't somehow achieve it. The idea that perfection is an impossible human conceit that doesn't exist -- a supernatural idea in its own right -- never seems to occur to anyone. I've known people who threw five-figure weddings for their offspring (what college fund, Mom and Dad?) while none of the participants seemed to have given fifteen minutes of thought to what the actual marriage would mean. And I've seen people yell at their kids for unwrapping and enjoying their Christmas presents before someone could whip out a camera and nab the moment for the future without the bother of actually experiencing it.

Last night, though, we had the kind of celebration at our home that could make me actually enjoy holidays. About twenty friends came over -- most of them activists of the Green and peace-movement variety -- and we had a wonderful vegetarian potluck dinner. No one bought or exchanged gifts. No one swore at the decorations while trying to get them "just perfect" -- all we needed was a string of lights around the living-room picture window and a few red and green table decorations. The group included Christians, Unitarians, pagans, and atheists. Some of us (including myself) are omnivores, but by happy accident, no animals were killed for our dinner last night.
Nothing was ostentatious, and everything was fun. It was just twenty friends together, eating terrific homemade food off our variety of mismatched tableware, drinking wine and coffee and sparkling grape juice, and enjoying completely uncensored conversation. The guitars, keyboards, and percussion instruments eventually came out and were put to good use. There was no caroling, but one friend's blues-guitar talents provided a uniquely religious experience.

The youngest people there were in their early twenties. The oldest was eighty-three. Everyone had something good to say to and about everyone else. I think I'll actually be able to listen to Bob Rivers' "Twisted Christmas" and laugh instead of cringing with recognition now. :-)

That's it for now. (Congrats on your graduation, Gail, and on becoming a dad, Andy. Get well soon, Joyce.)


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