I have been raised in a society that is Christian. But, I’m not Christian. When I was younger I celebrated Christmas. I thought it was great that everyone was happy and loving and giving. And I loved presents. As I grew older I started to see the cracks. Spoiler: Santa Claus isn’t real. I started to see the stress and the mechanics of the economic drive that fuels a huge consumer economy.
However, I still felt that the season could draw out the best in people. That given a excuse, people could be genuine and loving and selfless. I disliked that it required an excuse. And once wrote a whole treatise on extending our hands past the holidays and embracing love as way of life. And I kinda wish that this stopped there. But life is no children’s story.
I grew up. And started buying gifts on my own. I love buying gifts. The perfect gift given at the perfect time can change the course of a life. I believe that. I love seeing a person’s face light up in surprise and delight. To see some of the glee poke out of their shell and watch as they glory in the moment. Now, me, I shop all year for my gifts so I don’t feel the pinch at the end of the year that others do.
But, I see. I see people spending entire paychecks on gifts. I see people who are scrambling for purchase in life spending money they don’t have for people they barely like and I wondered why that was. And it hit me. It’s the social contract.
The society I live in is predominantly Christian of the American persuasion. Which mainly means more protestant and more secular at the same time. More lip service is paid rather than deep genuine faith. And we see how that effects the expression of Christmas in this society.
It becomes a vicious game of giving gifts to ‘prove’ how happy Christmas makes you. Maybe that’s cynical. And if you hold that view, I challenge you to look beyond your immediate family group to the larger society and really see what people are doing. And more importantly, why. Because, this time of year has bled meaning. And I won’t delve into the origins of Christmas and the Hubris of building a major holiday on the bones of older, conquered traditions, except to say that conceptual momentum can infect and change anything that you build atop something that doesn’t want to be changed. That’s probably a different discussion.
We are left as adults to sift through this gift giving frenzy. For myself, I buy gifts for the same reason that I do most things. Because I desire to and because the result brings me joy. I see the season and I find it has changed for me. I no longer see the generosity and hope of the season.
And that’s a good thing. Because this is not my holiday. Because I’m not Christian. I am pagan but in my tradition this is not a time of celebration. We are not joyously leaping for the hope of the daylight and the coming of spring. This is a time of somber reflection. To look back over the course of time and see what change has wrought and decide what course we want to travel into the future. We call the time leading up to the winter solstice The Harrowing. It is a time of testing. Of physical, emotional, and societal strength. A time of decisions. A time to plant the seeds of self now, while the rest of the world sleeps.
For years I observed my paths tradition and my society’s. But as I’ve grown older my patience for the frenzy of good wishes veneer has worn thin. I think that if this season of generosity was truly important that people would act in its spirit every day of their lives and not just pay lip service for a couple of months.
And finally, this year, I find that it’s lost whatever grip it had. I’ll observe the form of gift giving because I enjoy it. But this time and this day have lost its grip.
I am secure and safe in my heart and head with my faith. And the burden of a societal fervor I no longer have the patience for has bled away.
This is just a day. It is your day if that is your belief. I begrudge none their faith if it is deep and true.
But I, am finally free of it.