On Christmas

Published on 2023-12-26

Christmas is a very powerful tradition.

I say that because it seems to me like it's so powerful, that many people don't even really get a choice in whether or not they celebrate it in some way. Like, gender identity, or shopping.

That is, if you're living in the global north-west, Christmas is basically forced upon you. Irregardless of whether you're Christian, secular, or follow some other religious or spiritual tradition, you are inundated by it in a way that you aren't for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any of the many winter solstice traditions.

Around this time of year, I'm generally the annoying person who insists nobody gets them any Christmas presents. I often make up some convoluted reason for it; often times it'll sound a lot like what I just said, maybe with the phrase "commercialism" mixed in somewhere. In reality, I just find the experience of unwrapping presents extremely uncomfortable, and I generally have an extremely hard time associating people with things I see in the store. If I want to give someone a gift, I usually want to make it myself, and that sort of thing takes so long that it doesn't really feel practical to do it all in a big batch once a year.

The thing is, it doesn't really matter what you tell people. If they care about you and they don't share your views of the holidays, there's a pretty good chance they'll treat your feelings as suggestions and get you something anyway. It can feel really minimizing at times, but all the same, I am a regular human being who feels good when people show them affection. It feels nice to get a thoughtful gift from someone at such a busy time of year. I guess my point is, there's a lot going on here, and I don't want to cast judgement. I don't think that's the point of this article.

One thing that I've been thinking a lot about is specifically how it's Christmas people choose to run with. Christmas is fundamentally a Christian holiday, even though it's become fairly secular over the last century. My country has a fairly diverse cultural makeup. You'd think this would be an incredible opportunity to learn about other people's traditions, but most people who celebrate Christmas seem to view Christmas as the generic default. If you bring people into your Christmas celebrations, you're safe. You don't need to spend the energy understanding something new.

I've talked abstractly about my spirituality before on this gemlog:

Manifestation is useful, whether or not it's real

I don't want to get too much further into it than I already have, but while I do consider myself religious, I don't consider myself Christian. I do have some traditions I try my best to observe, including some around the winter holiday season.

I am often alone in celebrating these traditions, so it's hard to imagine what it'd be like for other people. Like, I imagine lots of Jewish and Muslim people at least find it annoying that lots of Western culture seems to bend over backwards to have people celebrate Christmas, whereas you might need to fight your employer to get them to allow you to observe the holidays you grew up with. I would be even more curious how they'd feel about people giving them Christmas presents "against their will," or if that's even a problem people feel they experience at all. I'm lacking the sample size to figure that out.

On one hand, it's always important to be grateful when someone takes the time to give you a thoughtful gift. On the other hand, it also feels a little trivializing. I suppose you've got to hold both things true in your mind; one out of self respect, and one out of respect for the people who love you.

This is probably a "baby's first" sort of thing for me. It's only been a matter of years since I've "stopped" celebrating Christmas. While I still do go through the motions and attend the events, it's mostly out of respect for the people who want to celebrate Christmas with me, and so I do end up feeling a little conflicted, and maybe even a little selfish?

Needless to say, Christmas is an extremely powerful tradition, because it's pervasive. The whole world seems to stop for a day to materialize the values it professes.

I like traditions a lot. I feel like they bring a lot of value into life. Though, I do really want to spend more time figuring out what traditions work best for me personally, and that can be hard when I spend so much time worrying about the traditions of everyone else.

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