Today I told someone I won’t see again until the first of the year that I hoped he would have a happy holiday. This genuinely warm wish generated an unsettling response in which I was accused of participating in a “war on Christmas” in favor of “political correctness.”
For the record, I am in no “war on Christmas.” I am not a Christian and have no desire to regulate how Christians celebrate this holiday. Nor have I engaged in any effort to limit Christians’ expressions of their religion in relationship to this holiday. Yet, in the name of “religious freedom,” this Christian (and he was not the first) criticized how I celebrate.
But there is something human—and profoundly valuable—about a season in which we reflect on our lives and how we live in the world. All religions (and the cultures in which they exist) have such seasons and, I would conjecture, they are evolutionarily valuable. It’s a time of taking stock.
I’m not a Pagan either but I would think that the Pagans might have a legitimate gripe with the Christians; after all, the holiday was theirs first. (Imagine those billboards!) For better or worse, in our culture, that time of reflection coincides with a central holiday in the Christian calendar (that was borrowed by Christians from the cultures that preceded it). But I digress.
So I give gifts to those I love, to materially mark the fact that my real gift is my love for them (and I reflect on whether I tell/show them I love them enough during the rest of the year.) I send notes, emails and cards to people who have touched my life but are now spread throughout the world.
I take food to someone who needs it and pay special attention to requests from those in need on freecycle. (If you don’t know freecycle check it out; it’s the coolest). In both cases, I reflect on the realization that I don’t do enough of that during the rest of the year. I donate money to charity and take “stuff” to Hospice. I take in a rescue dog about to be euthanized, training him so he can join a family whose home he will fill with love (a gift to him and to them). I fill my own home with a Christmas tree, many lights and candles, music and with the warmth generated only by good food (and wine) and friends.
In my thoughtful and reflective mood, I am happy for the seasonal renewal that comes from stopping the routines that shape our lives the rest of the year and from the sensual aspects of the holiday (the food, the smells, the sounds) that pull us each back to our warmest memories of home—all of which help us to think about how to make life more meaningful in the year to come.
And then, Jon Stewart has a point:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas|