Sidepocket & rob_t_firefly asked my take on Christmas.
So I love holidays in general. My life has always been enriched and comforted by ritual, and there's much, much ritual that surrounds Christmas. And it's a holiday that, better or for worse, the entirety of Western culture seems to get behind or get into.
I love being in the Holiday Spirit. (Go shopping with me sometime after Halloween and you'll see what I mean.) I love the shopping, the lights (pretty lights!), the decorating the tree (sparkly!), the taking time and carefully choosing gifts for loved ones and then taking the time to wrap them in a style they'd like, the parties (notice it's the only time of the year I throw a party), OMG the carols (the Hallelujah chorus rocks my world [especially if I'm singing it] and has anyone else ever noticed how DARK of a song the Carol of the Bells is? Wow, stalk me then ravish me on Christmas Eve to that one, please), the food! (the holiday cheese ball and hot mulled cider or wine and dear Lord the cookies!), and, yes, I've always loved the crowds while holiday shopping (it's the only time, growing up with introverts in the middle of nowhere, I'd actually get chances of being in large groups of people. I actually LIKE the noise and hubbub. [It's why I like Times Square]). And, as much as I hate the cold, it wouldn't be that time of the year without it. Often times the first snow is during that season and winter just seems MAGICAL when you add that holiday spirit to it. The world really DOES seem to take on a glow around this time of year.
(Yes, folks, I hit the Kool-Aid hard.)
So, yes, I love the secular holiday that I call Chrismas. (Notice the lack of T.)
And since I love ritual and celebrations so much, I often times celebrate the other festivals that surround this time of year. I miss doing Yule with the Radical Faeries... the darkness, the candles, the dance and chant and song... it gives me the shivers in a very good way. The Yule log and "the rising of the sun and the running of the deer", the holly and the ivy, the joy and the hope in the sun starting to come back, which lets us know it will, indeed, be warm again and life will indeed return to the Earth. I also love Hanukkah... the joy and hope in the ancient story of miracle of the oil that lasted for 8 days, the lighting of candles against the dark nights, the playing dreidle, the singing of songs, and mmm... latkes! And as my holiday is technically HumanLight, although I've never found anyone else to celebrate it with, I stop for a moment every December 23rd and think about humanism and the wonderful spirit that the holidays bring out in folks and the terrific things people do with that spirit. I'd love to find some folks to celebrate and learn about Kwanzaa with.
However, I was raised Catholic and was raised with the religious holiday as well. And, I have to admit, I enjoy the religious one too.
I'm not as brainwashed as I was as a kid... I recognize that the changing of the seasons and the peoples of old are the reason for the season, not Jesus. (or at least that's how the season got started.) For me, what I get religiously out of Christmas is very much a very UU/humanist take on the holiday. The story of an amazing birth in the face of adversity, a birth that rocked people's world... that's still relevant in the modern world. The birth of a child turns a family upside down. Also, an unwed teenage mother getting pregnant and having to give birth in what would today be a garage? Sounds familiar. (My favorite retelling of the Christmas story [which was told by the minister at the Cumberland Valley Unitarian Universalists back in PA] had Mary and Joe traveling back to Joe's town in an old VW microbus and stopping at Wal*Mart in the town next to my parents' and her giving birth in the restrooms and the poor workers of the store coming and visiting her newborn babe and giving him presents from the store. It doesn't get more relevant.)
However, I also recognize the religious festival for the joy and hope it brings Christian believers around the world... and I try to get swept up in the spirit myself. I still celebrate Advent. I light the candles on my wreath and I sing "Oh Come, O Come, Emmanuel" because it's fitting (and because that song is hauntingly beautiful). I think about the anticipation that the Christians experience in the birth of their King and try to do some of the same personal growth and preparation that the Christians do during this season. I also like how the beginning of Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. (Fall, early middle or late seems to be the time for this. It happens in early fall for the Jews, literally the middle of fall for the Pagans and towards the end of fall/beginning of winter for the Christians. And then the beginning of winter gives us the secular new year, at least in the NOrthern Hemisphere.)
I love the Advent songs we would sing in church growing up (O Come O Come Emmanuel and People Look East! in particular) and I do enjoy the religious carols as well as the secular ones. And I always enjoyed seeing our church lit up on Christmas eve. Church always feels so special and magical in a dark and cozy way then.
So yes. Christmas. FUCK YEAH CHRISTMAS.