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The Meaning in Christmas

Christmas is here. Our tree is filled with an odd assortment of mementos and treasures, the carols are playing (classic and traditional not pop thankfully), the lights are shining and twinkling and the cider is mulling on the stove. Sounds perfect right? It is lovely, but I can’t help feeling a little like Charlie Brown, sitting in the midst of it all, wondering what it all means.

What is the true meaning of Christmas? Not the Christian meaning of Christmas, or the Hollywood meaning of Christmas, but for the average culturally doing ‘xmas’ people, what is the actual point?

If I was a practicing Christian, I could imagine feeling the magic of celebrating the birth of someone I thought was awesomely amazing. There would be a story to bring myself back to, I would be able to look at what I was doing around this season and realign it to fit with the meaning that drove the holiday.

Instead I feel like I am in a swamp of consumerism and expectations wondering if the holiday season has in fact become a pageant of the seven deadly sins (or at least 6 of them) and I’m not totally convinced that that is something I want to celebrate.

Greed seems like it might be the cornerstone of Christmas. Stuff, stuff and more stuff, giving and getting, racking up bills that are hard to pay, for things that no one really needs. I would think that pride is probably in there playing its part. It’s the voice that says, “What if they give me something and I don’t have anything for them?”

Gluttony is like a steady background sound, maybe it is the bass drum of Christmas, beating out its call to eat as many candy canes, gingerbread and chocolates as is humanly possible. Then, the drink of course needs to be taken in equal measures with the treats. In many instances this summons wrath onto the scene. There is a spike in domestic violence every year in this joyous occasion (maybe a hint that something is not quite right?) Envy of course has its place. Envy at what others are doing, having, buying, eating or celebrating. Lust is downplayed to romance (not sure that it gets enough attention to keep up with the other deadlies.)

But, what about sloth? It is winter and we are animals, couldn’t we put some rest into this joyous holiday? Time to curl up in a chair with a pile of books and a mug of tea and enjoy the sound of silence (Silent Night is a Christmas song, isn’t it?) I’m sure there are people out there who have figured out how to incorporate sloth into their xmas celebrations, but I am not one of them (maybe those people don’t have kids?)

When I was in my late teens, twenties and early thirties, I celebrated solstice as my primary winter holiday. It was simple and I loved it. I understood that I was celebrating the return of the light. I was welcoming longer days and the eventual return of spring. It involved lighting candles, eating a few treats and being thankful that everyday there would be a few more minutes of sunlight to enjoy. It was a time of self-reflection and calm.

You might be wondering where the shift came, how I got from a solstice celebrating, pagan, hippy-kid to being a Christmas celebrating, present buying mama of four. The truth is, so am I.

I’m sure it happened gradually. My oldest still remembers when I celebrated the solstice each year, which means it has been less than a decade. I think what is ultimately important is not how I got from there to here, but where I want to go for next year and the year after that.

Christmas isn’t actually some out of control force that is happening to me, it is something I am taking part in. It is something that I can effect and change.

I’m not talking about changing the global concept of Christmas, I’m just talking about making choices about what I celebrate and why. I’d like Christmas to feel like a magical celebration of love, harmony and sharing. A time where I feel a sense of peace and connection. And, of course, like so many things, I am the only one who can help to make this happen for myself.

I hope that the holiday season has brought you some peace, joy and contentment. If not, maybe sit down for a moment and light yourself a candle. It is never too late to welcome back the light.

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