Friday, December 15, 2006

Atmospheric Shift

Have I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of Christmas? Strangely, I share this perspective with some seriously uncomfortable bed-fellows - the right wingers.

The thinly veiled Christianity. The rampant consumerism. The accusations of "grinch" or "scrooge" lobbed at those of us who are less than appropriately festive. The Secret Santas and Yankee Swaps planned in multi-religious offices nationwide. The Salvation Army bell ringing. The Christmas muzak in every building. I spend most of December vacillating between mildly annoyed and supremely over-stimulated.

As Wifey and I danced through our courtship, the issue of religion was only periodically discussed. Mostly we ignored it. See ... Wifey was raised Catholic and then Episcopalian. She likes the rituals. The music. The physical space. The community. While I was raised with no religion, and churches make me anxious - because I'm bound to do something wrong.

Periodically the issue surfaces, primarily when it comes to raising Little Man. We've resolved many things, but we're primarily in a holding pattern.

But much to my dismay, I'm starting to slide. Give in. Relent.

But much to my surprise, it's not that I'm turning a blind eye. It's coming from a different source entirely -- Little Man.

Earlier this week, we bought a tree. It's a real tree (don't even get me started on that), and Little Man thought strapping a tree to the roof of the car was absolutely hilarious. Then we brought a tree inside the house -- "that's SO silly" said he. Soon after the lights were strung, he began to understand that we were decorating the tree. "Wow! Those are pretty!" When the box of ornaments was opened, he jumped up and down screaming "hooray" "wow" and "mommy look at this one!" He immediately grasped the hook technique and the ribbon technique and the spread the ornaments around the tree concept. While Wifey polished the snowflake tree topper, he asked "mama, what are you doing?" at least a dozen times.

In the presence of such incredible joy, it's hard be critical. Granted, our tree is primarily decorated with squirrels, elk, snowflakes, birds, and the occasional cultural symbol (the peace sign), and we're not focused on the gift-giving aspect of the holiday. But at some point soon, Little Man will hear about Santa from his friends, and they'll start comparing piles of holiday booty. At some point soon, my little boy will be corrupted.

In the meantime, experiencing Little Man's festive joy has caused a little pain in my chest. I think my heart has grown a size.
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!"

And what happened then?
Well ... in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he ... he himself ...
The Grinch carved the roast beast.

Apparently Dr. Seuss and I have something in common.

12 comments:

Ashley said...

Hang on there--the wingers LOVE christmas! And they hate us lefties and our war on Christmas.

And, I about threw up in the mall the other day listening to the verse of "Here comes Santa Claus" that goes "let's give thanks to the lord above 'cause santa claus comes tonight!" Which, hey--you got your religion in my materialism! Or, more imptly, you got your materialism in my religion!

So I'm with you generally. But then, yeah, Little Man and his little man counterparts everywhere. And I really like the Harlot's post today, because it reminds me that it's not about Christmas per se. It's about the light coming back...eventually. Which, at the dawning of the 100th Congress, I can totally get behind.

Beth S. said...

I'm an atheist who loves Christmas. The tree is a purely pagan symbol--it's got exactly *nothing* to do with virgin births. The lights, the feasting, the quaffing of strong drink--it all goes back to the winter solstice. Christmas is merely grafted onto this ancient tradition, which they HAD to do in order to get the newly subjugated pagans to observe it.

And remember--shepherds don't watch over their flocks by night in December. They do it in the spring, in lambing season. Think about that the next time you have carols blasting in your ear in a public space. ;-)

mamacate said...

Yep. I've totally knuckled under to the xtian hegemony. (sorry for the language...you know...)

Anyway, I am the same way and have undergone a similar transformation. I can't totally decide whether I am just a total hypocrite, or whether my heart has grown. Ask me tomorrow.

Oh, but I did get a few solstice books this year...

Anonymous said...

I'm another atheist fan of christmas. I'm actually looking forward to when/if I have kids because their christmas spirit is so pure and happy. Probably because it hasn't been chipped away by years of nasty malls, xmas muzak and forced gift buying.

Rhonda said...

I think Christmas all what we each make of it. Seeing it thru the eyes of a child is always better. I always wanted to make it a happy time & pick & choice which parts I wanted as my family traditions. No right or wrong. It's a time for peace & kindness & love to all mankind. And there are many names for the celebration for this time of year. Pick one & make it yours. Enjoy!

Ashley said...

I meant the 110th Congress, btw.

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

I have always felt that the Christmas season should be for the children, and especially those who are young are heart. ;) For me, the season is about getting together with family and friends in a positive way.
=:8

Alison said...

Yeah, I have mixed feelings about the holidays. As a UU, I've always celebrated Christmas, and enjoyed many related rituals, but definitely from a more pagen POV. But nowadays I do find the pressure to be festive and cheerful makes me irritable and the holidays don't often live up to my own unrealistic expectations. And I find it difficult being cash-strapped and simultaneously wanting to buy everyone the perfect gifts. But, I still love a nice Christmas tree.

Dorothy said...

I love Christmas, but I hate all the commercialism and companies shilling their crap. I hate the implication that if you don't spend a fortune on everyone and throw thirty perfect parties you're a grinch.

When a little kid's eyes light up at the sight of the lights on a tree or on the houses and they wake up happy and excited Christmas morning, that makes up for all the crap before.

You aren't loving Christmas the way you knew it before, you are discovering it through little man.

julia fc said...

I have been emphasizing the pan-cultural mood of contemplation and the importance of lights at the darkest time of the solar calendar until I am blue in the face, and this year, Will comes home from school and announces that Christmas is the birthday party for the baby Jesus and he wants to know the whole story: God and everything. But after the shock wore off and I remembered that I had been raised hell-fearing episcopalian and had my baby jesus phase too, I figured it was okay to let him have it all laid out for him, with the pagan context of the Saturnalia and how all the traditions get tangled up together in a (after all) fun way. So now he knows. Like any substance, Americans manage to send it in to hyper-drive and wring all the wholesomeness out of it by carrying it all too far: be it ceremonial tobacco, sugar, sex, or Christmas. The trick is to give the kids critical skills, and hope the dam holds.

Julie said...

I've always loved Christmas, and I love it even more when I have kids to share it with. I look at it as a time to be with friends and family, to give them gifts I know they'll love, and to put up lights to keep away the darkness. I love that last part the most - Christmas lights in my place stay up through January because I can't bear to take them down and have just a blah apartment again.

The Christ part of Christmas? Meh. I'm Wiccan, it's all about the Solstice for me.

The Purloined Letter said...

I'm with you. Or, well, not exactly. I'm one of those anti-religion Jews who loves the rituals as long as there is no religious content--and even usually when there just is no religious content in English. Son's love of Jewish practice makes talking about the religion part all the harder--but watching his eyes light up makes it a lot more appealing. Hope you find some great answers to share.