Christmas

Other essays in Rhobin’s Rounds

I am more tolerant toward Christmas than I used to be. Until quite recently, I wanted to get off the planet at the early warning signs of holiday frenzy. Now, I smilingly tune out, and use Buddhist equanimity to get through it.

Here is a paragraph from Ascending Spiral, which is my fictionalised autobiography:

    Aunt Irén also got me to hate Christmas. Mother requested that Father should celebrate Hanukkah when I was with him, so Aunt Irén lit candles on the Christmas tree, then said, “Now we’ll light the Jewish Christmas candles too.” I knew what saccharin was: her smile. She showed me without words that she despised the wonderful story of Hanukkah, the story of courage against overwhelming odds. She knew the story all right, but made it an inferior custom of an inferior people.

So, that’s where my automatic emotional reaction comes from. But also, there are rational grounds for being a Grinch.

Three years ago, I wrote this on the topic of Christmas:

If you are a Christian, Christmas should be nothing more and nothing less than a holy day, a day for celebrating the birth of Christ. It should be a day for remembering His message, and renewing your commitment to it. This message is Love, what my friend Bill Sutcliffe prefers to call by the Buddhist term metta. It is love, not only for those you find easy to care for, but love for your neighbour, and even for your enemy.

If you are not a Christian, Christmas should be like Chinese New Year to a Swede, or Hanukah for a Buddhist. It is simply someone else’s religious festivity.

Unfortunately, Christmas is nothing like it should be, which is the reason this is the time of year I want to go off-planet.

Christmas is hypocrisy When I worked in nursing homes, I used to be REALLY upset by those loving relatives who came bearing useless gifts and false smiles around Christmas, and then didn’t show until a year later. Similar are the family gatherings where long-established enemies will hopefully manage not to have a slanging match; the superficial good wishes with no meaning behind them; the sentiment that’s expressed all so sincerely but ignored for the rest of the year.

Christmas is obligation “Oh, what will I give Joe?” “How much should I spend on Sally’s present?” People give presents to each other, not from a spirit of love or generosity or even caring, but because they will commit a social blunder if they don’t. This includes the meaningless and useless barrage of Christmas cards that choke up the mail (unless it’s a once-a-year opportunity to keep in touch — then it doesn’t matter what part of the year, and might as well be Christmas).

Christmas is commercialism One large shopping centre announced that it was swamped during its night hours at Christmas Eve. Everybody had to be there for that last-minute shopping. We have been encouraged — brainwashed — into spending more and more on less and less, and Christmas is the time for spurious specials that painlessly remove money from your bank account.

Christmas is indulgence It is when diets and promises of abstinence are forgotten, when people get drunk and eat too much, all of the wrong foods.

Christmas is sorrow Those who are isolated will hurt all the more when they think that everyone else is enjoying family. Those who have lost someone will miss them with a special poignancy at this time.

For people like that, the holiday period is the worst time of the year.

There was a time in my life, now thankfully long in my past, when I was terribly lonely and isolated. I felt unloved and unlovable, felt that, should I die, there would be no one to miss me. One popular weekly radio program of the time had a theme song with the words ‘Everybody loves Saturday night.’ Well, during the week I could be busy and so distract myself from my misery. Weekends were the worst times, and this song hurt. I certainly didn’t love my lonely Saturday nights!

The world is full of people like I was: isolated, self-hating, desperate to belong, but for some reason unable to take the actions to bring them in contact with others. For them, Christmas is often my ‘Saturday night’, multiplied by a thousand.

Maybe, this Christmas you could find a person like that, and extend a hand of friendship?

Christmas can also be a time of pain for those who have lost a loved one, perhaps years ago. A dead person who used to have a very special role to play during Christmas will be missed with extra poignancy during the supposedly festive season. You may be over the worst of your grief — most of the time — but during Christmas it will bite you anew with a special fierceness.

If you are in this sad situation, prepare for it. Be aware that Christmas will hurt, and instead of doing the usual, devote a significant amount of time and effort into remembering all the good things, celebrating your life with the person you miss, whom you can welcome back into your life.

As you may have gathered, I would like every day of the year to be Christmas, in the real meaning: a time for implementing the message of Jesus. But I would like to get rid of all the rest of the nonsense.


Do you disagree with me? Please say so via the comment slot below. Agree with me? State your support there. Then please visit my fellow Rhobin’s rounders.

Rhobin L Courtright
Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Diane Bator
Victoria Chatham

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in compassion, philosophy, Rhobin's round robin. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Christmas

  1. J.Q. Rose says:

    I like your forthright blog post about your feelings about Christmas. It is never a Norman Rockwell painting as much as we want it to be. But the overarching spirit of Christmas of love and giving and finding peace within our hearts is important. My brother passed away last December, and yes, I miss him terribly, but I’m sure he’s up there with the angels entertaining them with his dry sense of humor and playing his mandolin, harmonica, and trumpet in the angels’ band! Peace and love to you and your family, Bob.
    JQ Rose

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  2. okwriter says:

    An interesting post and very different from the others. I agree with much you have said including those who are alone and lonely, or those who have lost someone from their lives. I also agree on the commercialism and the emphasis some people place on gifts and those who show up once a year with a useless gift. And I agree it would be nice if people tried to continue the true spirit of love, caring, sharing throughout the year. But for many, they do try to do good and the gifts are increased donations to charities they support throughout the year and volunteer work over the holidays to charities they also support throughout the year. And a Christmas Eve service is a lovely experience anyone can have.

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    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Beverley. Naturally, my post is different. I’ve never, ever managed to do what everyone else does.
      The only time I managed to enjoy a conventional Christmas was as a student nurse, in a hospital for old people. The staff, including me, did everything possible to make it great for the oldies. I wrote a limerick for each.

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  3. Rhobin says:

    You are right in so many ways, and I can understand many don’t share the luck I’ve had with my family. I embrace both the good times and the bad when I am with all of my brothers and sisters and all of our children at our annual get together.

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  4. Victoria Chatham says:

    I have really enjoyed the Christmas stories on the blogs, but your blog hit home. Not everyone celebrates in the same way, if at all, and I remember so many Christmases with lots of tears because someone didn’t get what they wanted or expected, or something had just gone wrong.

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    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      My family tradition is shaped by my wife, who was born Dutch. So, we have St. Nicholas’s birthday on the 5th of December, and Christmas is for those who want to celebrate a religious holiday.

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  5. Skye-writer says:

    I can’t disagree that so many who are not Christian have turned our holy day into something it was never meant to be. I can’t disagree that when life has been or is being difficult, it’s hard to be so left out, to feel isolated and in pain. Nor can I disagree that Christmas, along with New Years is an opportunity for overindulgence in so many ways that are just not good for us. But it saddens me that you have not experiences the quiet joy that the remembrance of our Savior’s birth can bring. I was recently asked what my best Christmas gift ever was. I thought about it and all the years I’ve been alive and realized that the best, most precious memory I have of Christmas was the year I stood in church at the midnight service singing Silent Night holding hands with my husband, and filled with thanksgiving. Just weeks earlier I had nearly died giving birth to my youngest daughter and that experience had sharpened my appreciation for all the gifts I’d been blessed with and that night with candles all around, the scent of fir in the air and the lovely words of the hymn and my husband’s hand enclosing mine – that was the best Christmas gift I ever had.

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  6. Bob, I like that you have said what a lot of us feel at Christmas. It’s commercialism drives me to distraction, and the amount of food bought, the greed, the waste, and so on, affects me more every year.
    I’m not a Christian, but I do still believe in the spirit of Christmas. I’ve seen for myself times when people who have fallen out have reunited at Christmas, and you only have to think of Christmas truces during war time – for example during WW1 – to know that the spirit of peace is a strong message.
    If only people could remember this message every day of the year, and keep a year-long truce, and remember the lonely and the elderly and the sick. But one day of the year has to be better than none, though.
    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I wish you a happy and peaceful time over the holiday season.

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