There are numerous instances of articles, essays, and songs that all describe what Christmas is. The problem with declaring just the positive side of an idea is that you leave listeners open to an interpretation of what the negative side might be. In the case of the Christmas holiday, I think that people allow themselves to feel bad because they extrapolate the declarations too far. So, here’s an abbreviated list of some of the things that I think that Christmas is not.
Christmas is not exclusive. I could allow myself to feel like I’m being shunned by the holiday because I’m not a Christian, but that’s not actually a part of the day. If you believe in the biblical stories of Christ, then the holiday should already be inclusive to you. If you don’t believe in those stories, then there’s no reason why you would be concerned about any implicit exclusivity to the celebration. Whether a person believes in the religion or not, anyone can choose to celebrate December 25th. Heck, I personally know three people born on December 25th! None of them seem messianic but I’ll bet they are all capable of having happy birthdays. I had a couple of Jewish friends when I was just out of college who loved Christmas as a time to go to the movies and gorge on Chinese food. That’s not just a stereotype, apparently, as my friend Amy Smart would have attested to. Anyhow, she celebrated Christmas in her own way.
Christmas is not a time to feel stress. I don’t like being in crowds, so I can understand how the idea of going to a mall full of other people who are aggravated is unappealing. I can understand that the end of the year is a time when many people feel that they have to accomplish numerous goals before the next year begins. I get that. And if you’re traveling around the holidays, well, air travel is generally difficult so the stress seems included for free. The thing to remember, though, when you are beginning to feel that pressure — is that people around you are feeling the same way. If anything, all these aspects to the season that can seem overpowering are actually commonalities between us. When you are trying to find the right gift and just can’t find that sweater you think is perfect in the size that fits for that special someone, don’t scream in frustration. Just catch the eye of the frantic shopper next to you and grin because they’re just as frustrated. I hope they grin back instead of punching you in the mouth. Or be compassionate to a fellow consumer out there in the purchasing jungle because I’ll bet they could really use some consideration and odds are that they are no worse of a human being than you. Or just shop online and don’t contribute to the driving traffic or walking traffic that gets to us all.
Christmas is not a reason to let yourself be tortured. There may be some readers of this essay who are young enough that they don’t have much control over their own lives, but if you are a legally recognized independent then you have no excuse. I’ve never understood why people would choose to put themselves into situations where others make them feel bad. I’ve been in that place. I’ve had a mean mother try to control me. I’ve been in relationships where I’ve had the guilt trip for the holidays. That, by the way, is the worst travel you can experience. I realized almost a decade ago that by going along with the tradition of joining certain grumpy people for Christmas, I was making myself miserable. Since that realization, I’ve spent the season with friends who make me feel happy and doing things that make me feel happy.
Christmas is not required. Sure, I’m writing a blog entry every day until and including December 25th and I’m sharing them with anyone who cares to read these essays, but I’m not trying to force it down anyone’s throat. I celebrate Christmas because I want to. If anything, recent years have found me surrounded by many people who are disinterested in or opposed to the celebration of this occasion. That makes it harder for me to get the spirit sometimes, but so long as I get to choose to pursue the jolliness rather than having it forced upon me, I’m still happy about the pursuit.
Christmas is not over after December 25th. I’m not going to get all sappy here, but I leave my decorations up and try to stay as cheerful as I can for as long as I can after the day is over. I hope that I can keep a good mood just a little bit longer every time. Maybe writing down all these thoughts of mine will help.
And finally, Christmas is not here yet…but it’s getting closer every day! Hooray!