I have always been a bit of a Scrooge at Christmastime, especially when it comes to Christmas music. I can tolerate it and even get into the spirit for the week leading up to Christmas, but other than that, I can’t stand listening to it. Of course, when I was young, I looked forward to opening gifts and spending time out of school. We always visited my grandparents, and there was often snow on the ground for sledding. I have generally happy memories associated with Christmas.
And yet, I find myself increasingly dreading the holiday.
I don’t think it has much to do with Christmas, honestly. What isn’t there to love about a consumerist holiday veiled as religious celebration? It probably has a lot more to do with traditions and a culture surrounding it that feel more and more foreign to me as I distance myself from my upbringing.
Christmas is all about family getting together. Unfortunately, as I have become progressive in my faith and liberal in my politics over the last year and a half, those gatherings are no longer as enjoyable as they once were. I dread the moment one of my family members makes a racist comment or disparages Muslims. It isn’t a question of if they will, but when they will, and each instance is an internal battle. Is this the right moment to speak up? Am I truly an ally if I let it slide? I haven’t fully worked out how to choose my battles wisely, and walking into a family gathering full of conservative Evangelical Trump supporters is a minefield. It feels like the onus is on me to keep the peace by staying silent, but while this year has emboldened racists, homophobes, and bigots all across the country, it has also emboldened me to speak the truth, even if my voice shakes. I admittedly do like to argue, but since I get it from my dad, it’s a recipe for disaster – conflict just waiting to happen. I also know that it doesn’t really matter what I say or how I say it, the conversation is not going to be productive, as no one involved is there with an open mind.
I have come to despise obligatory gift-giving, and there is nothing quite as obligatory as swapping an arbitrary amount of money with a member of your family simply because you are related. It could be in the form of gift cards, cash, or an actual gift, but let’s be real – there was a set price limit, and all you accomplished was swapping that amount of money. Personally, I would rather keep my $40 and spend it on something I really want, rather than crossing my fingers that the other person will figure it out. My husband’s family attempts to mitigate that fear by simply telling each other exactly what to buy, but that negates the fun of giving a gift in the first place! If I wanted or needed that item so badly, I would have simply bought it with my own $40 instead of telling you to buy it, making you buy gift bags or wrapping paper, and then trying to act surprised when I open it on Christmas. Also, if you come from a family that doesn’t set price limits, navigating obligatory gift-giving can become even trickier. How much should I spend on their gift? What if they spend a lot more than I spend? Will I look bad? Does it matter? The real problem is the fact that you are obligated to give them a gift in the first place; if you weren’t required to do so, any gift given would be sincere and it wouldn’t matter how much either of you spent.
The War on Christmas
I am weary of trying to determine if someone’s “Merry Christmas!” is sincere or if it’s a subtle “screw you!” A holiday greeting should not be a weapon of communication intended to let all around you know how “Christian” you are. I am tired of hearing people discuss “how to keep Christ in Christmas” or “the reason for the season”. Cursory research shows that not only was Jesus not born anywhere close to December 25, but the day of celebration was arbitrarily chosen by Pope Julius I, likely to correspond with the pagan holiday Saturnalia. The real “reason for the season” is probably a winter solstice festival. On top of all that, the consumerism that runs rampant around Christmastime is given top priority, even in most conservative families such as mine. Sure, we read the Christmas story from Luke before we open gifts, but it isn’t something to be celebrated – it’s merely an inconvenient tradition that stands in the way of the presents.
Snow, Slush, and Cold
This reason is definitely the most trite of everything I’ve said, but it still stands – I hate the cold. Snow can be pretty, but it comes at the price of chills and wet feet. Slush is perhaps the worst, as it is cold, wet, and also disgusting. The pros do not outweigh the cons for me, and while I know these things aren’t relegated to only Christmastime, that’s the time people generally wish for snow. But I don’t need a white Christmas; unless, of course, we’re talking about white sand beaches in the Caribbean somewhere.