The tree is up. It has no decorations this year but there’s a two-year-old in the house so the decision to go “only lights” is a logical one. I’m not interested in playing “find the ornament” ever again.
The décor is out as well; again, in a limited fashion and placed up high. The presents are wrapped and tucked away in my closet; the few cards I felt obligated to pen have been sent. Dinner is planned and since it will be at my parents’ house again, the work I have to do is minimal.
Other seasonal festivities have been announced. I have people coming here for our annual friend-klatch and I will attend an open house for part of Christmas Eve. I will then return home and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. My father hates that movie with a fiery passion but I love it, hokey-ness and all.
And, through it all, I will struggle with feeling like a hypocrite.
I was raised on Christmas. Then again I was raised Christian. And although I no longer consider that to be my religious designation, I still partake in the traditions. I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Easter. The pull of the majority that surrounds you is a powerful thing.
Although Christian holidays have been corrupted by marketers, Christmas is, at the core, holy day. It’s become less than it should be, for all that people pile into pews the morning of, so I’m not alone in my observance with a lack of buy-in, but I still feel like a fake and imposter.
My “Christmas” décor is already secular. I no longer put up a creche or an advent wreath. I suspect that once my parents are gone, I will shift even further, make it explicitly a seasonal, present-free, family dinner. A get-together celebrating the year that has passed. A “Festivus for the rest of us” in name as well as thought and deed.
It’s not that I don’t like Christmas things; I do. I like the lights. I like the sense of seasonal camaraderie. I like getting gifts. I like giving them, too. But I feel like I’m doing it under a false flag. I don’t celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Pancha Ganapati or Diwali or the solstice in December, so why should I celebrate Christmas? But history is hard to escape.
To announce I feel conflicted about celebrating Christmas would hurt my parents. And I wonder, am I doing any harm? After all, Christmas is also about family. It’s a day when we get together and try to get along. It’s a day when we try to show each other that yes, love is still there.
Continuing the traditions of my parents is also about respect. I can have a different point of view. I don’t have to go out of my way to bludgeon them with it. I could, but to what end exactly? What would taking a dogmatic stand accomplish? Should I demand that they greet me with “Happy Festivus” so as not to offend? It’s why I like “Happy Holidays”. December is a busy month, religious holiday-wise: “Happy Holidays” is nicely inclusive.
I feel a little uncomfortable and hypocritical calling what I do every year at this time “Christmas” but that’s a “me” thing. I strive to remember it is not necessary to push our every truth, especially if doing so causes distress and harm and not doing so causes nothing worse than mild discomfort. Flexibility is almost always better than dogmatic adherence.
It’s okay to not put yourself first sometimes. In fact, it’s seasonally appropriate.
Do you struggle with balancing your own needs against the needs of others? How do you prioritize?