Christmas Legacy

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hadn’t seen Pam in years.  Pam and I used to be neighbours. I was filling up the cart getting ready for my son’s birthday party.  We exchanged greetings and told each other how good we looked. “So” I said, “Are you almost ready for Christmas?”.  Pam looked at me and said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas. One of the reasons I married Joe was because he’s a J.W. and they don’t do Christmas”.  I didn’t know what to say.  I know many people don’t celebrate Christmas but I’d never heard of someone marrying someone to get away from feeling any sense of obligation to the occasion. Pam launched right in. “When I was little Christmas was the worst time of year. The minute the music started on the radio I would get a knot in my stomach because I knew my mom would turn into a nightmare. It was like she hated us because now she had to shop, now she had to cook, now she had to clean, now she had to entertain, now she had to wrap gifts and now she had to write cards.  Everything was a misery and so by Christmas morning she would refuse to come out of her room until she felt like it and we felt the hate.”  She told me how they’d tried saying no gifts and that make her mom angrier. She said the gifts they gave often sat untouched as if the godess had rejected the offerings because the offence was too big and not forgiven.

I stood there imagining the pain.  There were no words. We went on to other topics, hugged each other, and went our separate ways.  What started to stab me was my own attitude.  Just that morning I’d been complaining that I’d have to get the cards out and the price of stamps was ridiculous. No, I didn’t think it would turn my son against Christmas but what legacy was I leaving him?

I know that being divorced or separated or even in a tense marriage, Christmas can seem to magnify the pain because it is supposed to be a time of family harmony and togetherness. It represents a lot of what we’ve lost or never had.  The happiness of the season can almost seem to mock our sorrow or make us feel that we can’t live up to the ideals.  When we see advent scenes and see the plays and hear the songs they give a tranquil sweet veneer to the event but what was it really like?

Mary was a teenager who gave birth without family or village women to help her. How terrifying. She was really alone in the equivalent of an unheated garage. There was no one to help her with the process or aftermath. The wisemen did not show up at the stable. It was about a year or two afterwards when they were in a house. She was with Joseph who would have had no experience with these things and then poor local sheep herders. I’d like to think that some of the local women came to help but there is no record of that.  The point is that the first Christmas had none of the warm trimmings of a home decorating show or Christmas special. Pain and sorrow are native to Christmas.  The birth was marked with an immense importance and knowing that may have given Mary comfort but it was not easy.

The question is, what legacy for Christmas are we going to give to our children?  Do we give them our stress, sorrow and sense of profound disappointment?  Our attitudes can affect the children for the rest of their lives.  Are Christmas cards too much this year? Don’t do them.  Is a huge dinner too much? Have a potluck. No one to celebrate with? Create your own tribe of others without families.  No money or time for a big turkey dinner?  Try tacos. Really.  One year we were moving into a new house one week before Christmas. Christmas eve came and we couldn’t do the dinner. All I had was a package of taco shells.  I made them and sprinkled them with chopped red and green peppers. I presented them as Christmas tacos. The next year I had things together, presented the full turkey dinner and my son looked at me and said, “But where are the Christmas tacos?”  From then one we make sure it is a dinner that celebrates the season.   The biggest decorating need we have is the environment we create for our children. Being loved and treasured, being given those extra moments of warm attention is what will make any event special.  Be good to yourself.  If you are alone, allow yourself moments of kindness to yourself. Allow yourself moments away from the presssure of what you think your life should be.   Just stand in thankfulness for the singular reason for Christmas.  I say this because though I feel a lot of physical pain I feel an escape when I do this. I am grateful for so much. Those things will be the meditation for the season.

I’m wishing you all that escape from the consumer jungle, the made for TV event, and the confines of our own expectations. Watch the video “The Advent Conspiracy” on YouTube and have a peaceful Christmas,    love, D.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: