I've been thinking a lot about Christmas (oddly enough) and the "meaning" of it and all lately, particularly in relationship to my atheism (pantheism, you know)
I'm dating someone who doesn't like christmas, which in a way is nice for me. There are no expectations, no family gatherings that not only are family-gathering-awkward, but which I am an outsider to to boot! This year we painted my upstairs apartment, which badly needed doing. we kinds exchanged gifts (I bought her a $6 hat a few weeks before and said this is your xmas present, she bought me a used dvd at the blockbuster going out of business in her neighborhood)
Anyway, I love being free of obligations on Christmas, I really do.
But sometimes I miss it, a little bit. I don't miss buying stupid stuff you know someone doesn't need or want because you need to have a present for them and you haven't found the right thing yet, I don't miss the stress of wanting it to be perfect, which almost always made it awful when I was younger. But there are parts I still love, that I wish we shared more easily.
When I was a kid I was particularly present focused. It was all about the "haul" - I do think about if there's a way to steer children away from that in the US without having them simply feel terribly deprived. I have no clue.
But one year, when I was six or seven, I "got" it - I really did (or thought I did) and I LOVED Christmas, without regard to presents. I felt all warm and as one with humanity, full of love and light. Awed at the wonder of birth (any birth) and light in the darkness and warmth in the cold, and the essential humbleness of even the most important people. None of that came in words, it just was.
And it felt wonderful.
And for moments of each year, I feel it again. Very fleeting moments. I love Christmas lights on houses. I know that they're run by nuclear power and coal plants, but in the moments I forget that they bring me joy.
I love knowing that light is returning (which is solstice, not christmas, but really now, to those of us who don't attach mystical importance to the dates and the myths, it's really all the same, no?) - it makes no sense, it's still dark. It's still gonna be dark for a good long time, but it's getting better..... Hope, especially this year, is crucial to survival sometimes.
And I feel alienated, cranky and petty that someone might question my right to celebrate. Cause I'm not excited that that baby born among the critters (how cool!) will grow up to be tortured to death (how awful!) - supposedly in some sort of payment for my sins (how really awful!)
My favorite Christmas Carol from my childhood was Good King Wenceslas, a carol that really has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, it clearly states that it happens the NEXT day (St. Stephen's), and Christmas never come into it. What I love about it is the spirit of generosity. I guess that's what Christmas Spirit is to me, maybe, a concern for other humans, in the part of the year that's hard to get through, where people might freeze or starve or catch pneumonia so much more easily. Like maybe we wake up to each other and feel a real sense of urgency to save us all, not just our own skins. And true connection. The king doesn't just order that help be sent, he GOES, he walks through the snow and bitter cold himself. He doesn't have to (like the page does, he was ordered, poor thing!) - at least not technically, but he does. That thing I call God (and don't) tells him he has to, and so he does. (Of course there's so much in that song about wealth and privilege and obligation and charity and justice - I could tear it to shreds too, but not today)