I attended Catholic School for a good portion of my life and effectively obsessed over my religion. When the holiday season rolled around, I used to lament the secularization of the event. Fast forward to present day, and we find I am not nearly as religious as I once was. I may even qualify as nonreligious. That comes with a reduced enthusiasm for the Christmas season, and yet the secularization of the December holiday continues to astound me. Looking around, it seems the least religious among the people I know are the most excited for all the traditions of the holiday season.
The origins of Christmas do not lay in Christianity. The summary of how the holiday came to be as it is today has to do with people trying to convert pagans to Christianity. The date was already being used to celebrate Saturnalia, the Roman god of agriculture. By placing a Christian holiday on the same date, it was thought pagans would find it easier to convert. I have a friend, who is a bit too religious for her own good, who refuses to celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Saint’s day and any secular holiday (like New Years) because of their pagan origins.
Maybe that’s crazy, or maybe that makes more sense than anything else that happens over the holidays.
We have this fairy tale about Santa Claus and all these ridiculous decorations we step out in the freezing cold, on tall ladders no less, to put up all over our homes. Whether you get a fake tree or a real tree, the evergreen that bring holiday ambiance into homes is bound to make a mess. When it comes to shopping, people stand in huge lines, sometimes stumbling over each other, just to get the next big deal. The whole thing seems a bit nuts to me.
From what I’ve experienced, it seems a bit nuts to most people like me, people who used to be religious. Then there is my Jewish friend in college. She loved Christmas, had a tree up next to her menorah and happily engaged in the exchange of gifts. People in my life who have little care for anything religious seem to be the most enthusiastic about this holiday season. It catches me off guard every holiday season, even though I knew this was the case. Didn’t I lament the secularization of the holidays as a religious person? Certainly that is why so many nonreligious people have this enthusiasm.
I don’t think I am a Scrooge, though. There are things that are important to me this time of year, like family. On Thanksgiving, I spent hours in my car just to see family members whom I haven’t seen in months. The same thing will happen over Christmas. I will buy the most important people in my life presents because this is the time of year to celebrate those individuals. That’s what I cherish during the holidays.
There is, of course, nothing really wrong with holiday decorations and music. People are free to celebrate in any way they wish. I think the reason all that seems unappealing to me is that I used to relate it to religion. Without that purpose, the busy work of decorating seems unnecessary. In addition, with all the running around I do this time of year, buying presents, visiting family and attending Christmas parties, I don’t feel like spending the time on even more holiday activities. I mean, I could put up a Christmas tree or I could blog. Which would you prefer?
Honestly, that’s a lie. My boyfriend’s mom heard about my lack of Christmas decorations last year and bought me a little blue tree (Midnight Blue being my favorite color). She’s already asked me at least once if I have put it up. I will have to do so. Even if I had the ability to lie (I don’t), she’d demand a picture and I’d be caught. And who am I kidding? A gift given to me by family is my soft spot this season, and I’m bound to put the tree up before Christmas.
That little blue tree bares a message of the future. If ever I have a family of my own, especially in a space big enough to store decorations for the other 11 months in the year, I’ll be at least a little more excited. I’m thinking about it already. Alone, in my tiny apartment, decorating a Christmas tree seems a bit lonely. Next year, when I’m living with my boyfriend in a larger place, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wanted a tree to decorate together while we sip Bailey’s hot chocolate.
How enthusiastic are you about the holidays? Does the secularization of Christmas trouble you? What is the most important aspect of the holiday season? Have you already started to decorate for the holidays?
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