I have not celebrated Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.) for the past four years.
Many years before I finally decided to officially stop celebrating, I only did so begrudgingly. I have not liked holidays for years and when I met my husband, he confessed he also hated them and we decided together we would stop doing something we despised and we cancelled all holidays in our house. Except for halloween, because we love any excuse to dress up.
My hatred of holidays started many years ago, when I was a teenager. Like most children of divorce, I felt torn on the holidays, like I should be with both sides of my family and feeling guilty about wherever I was. My mom was supportive and understanding, but I still felt bad when I left her and was not celebrating the entire day with her. I remember thinking, “I really don’t want to do any of this.” I wished I could stay home with my mom and not have to be faced with guilt ridden decisions.
As an adult, I relish the independence and try to be mindful not to re-create painful childhood patterns. I felt I could put those guilt ridden feelings associated with holidays in my past, however they manifested themselves in other ways.
I started to feel there was so much obligation associated with holidays. I felt obliged to buy more and more for people. I begin to see how much of the holidays were driven by consumption, greed and waste. I felt overwhelmed by whatever the newest trends where and what I had to get people. I now realize how much of this is fueled by capitalistic greed driven by corporations and the push to buy more and more things that are not necessary and harmful to our planet in their creation.
I also begin to see how bad the holidays could make people feel about their situations. I work as a high school counselor, and I begin to hear from some of my students how difficult this time is for them. I think the expectation of the season can make others who are not able to meet those expectations feel bad about themselves and their families. I remember thinking after talking to some kids “why do we even do this?!” Many families do not have the means to buy extravagant presents or have a gathering, I feel awful that the expectation of what you are supposed to do has made them feel bad.
Being a vegan has also made the holidays less enjoyable. I will spare you all a rant, but will say amount of animals raised and killed to be served on a platter this season makes so incredibly sad. I hate that Thanksgiving, an alleged day of gratitude, is based around the slaughter of thousands of turkeys per year. There was a time when I would I would make all my own vegan food and bring it with me to each function, but it was still difficult to be celebrating a day that was based on the meaningless murder of animals.
With all my grinchiness laid in front of you, I will admit that I know the holidays are not defined this way for everyone. I know some people do an incredible job to frame those days in gratitude, giving and love. However, I have found it hard to do for myself and have found so much relief in not taking part in any of the madness.
I am fortunate enough to have time off for the holidays (one week at Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas) and I use it to the fullest advantage. I generally travel during this time. In the past four years, I have spent Christmas week in New York, hiking up and down The Grand Canyon, exploring Mexico and soaking in the beauty of Colorado.
I think the picture below sums it up well. My sister is the one on Santa’s lap crying and I am the one in the pink, mad about being forced to participate in the nonsense.
In love and grinchiness,
“I want to be a dentist!” Herbie the Elf
Since I can remember, I’ve always loved Christmas. As a young gay, it was everything my heart desired real life to be: tinsel, sparkling lights, ginger bread houses and Rudolf. As a child I never understood – and sometimes I still don’t get – real life. When I was in school it was always more of a burden rather than a delight; whether I was in elementary, junior high, or high school, I never really felt that I fit in.
When Christmas vacation came around, I fully lost myself in the holiday; relishing in the extra time off, the pretty decorations, relatives and toys.
One of my favorite Christmas cartoons of all time was and still is: Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. When I was younger, there was something about that show which spoke to my subconscious. I always related to Herbie and Rudolf’s journey into self discovery; a journey which ultimitly leads them to the Island of Misfit Toys.
When they arrive on the island and we find out its inhabitants are a bunch of irregular toys, something inside of me wished I could go there, stay and never leave. On those cold January mornings, on the first day back to school after the Christmas holiday, I’d often dream about the island as I sat in back of the bus waiting for the inevitable to begin.
When I watch the cartoon today, I realize things really haven’t changed much. One of the main reasons for starting Spiritual Bahana was to exercise the creative spirit; when real life becomes too much and I’ve exhausted the Lord’s ear in prayer, I need another form of escape. That’s why I still relate to it some thirty years later. This time around, I find that my spiritual sister Angelina has joined me as well.
I dedicate this next song to all our sisters this Christmas who are struggling this holiday just to “fit in.”