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.