I’m kind of a strange mixture of holiday spirit and cynicism. I love to decorate for Christmas, but I’d say my favorite Christmas movies are Bell, Book and Candle and Die Hard. I love old-fashioned carols, but Jingle Bells brings me out in hives. Sometimes, when I haven’t read A Christmas Carol recently enough, I wonder about me and Christmas. If I’m not religious, am I part of the commercialized Christmas problem? Am I co-opting Christmas? A good dose of Ebeneezer and Tiny Tim relieves me of this and fills me with secular humanist Christmas glow, but I think it’s worth saying that it’s a silly worry.
Haven’t you ever wondered why most cultures seem to have a winter holiday? (Most cultures in the Northern Hemisphere, that is. Maybe I should look up June holidays in the Southern hemisphere…) Christmas itself, some scholars hold, should really be in early January, but it got scooched back towards the Solstice, probably to compete with and co-opt existing winter festivals like Yule (I won’t even get into Zoroastrianism). I figure that we need our warmth and merriment, our festivals of light and celebrations of life, in order to get through the dark part of the year. It can’t be entirely due to pagan traditions that they tend to fall on either side of the Solstice instead of marking the end of the cold; it’s like a Hump-Day party for the year — we’re getting through the hardest part. There’s a certain dark humor to it, if you think back to the way things must have been in societies with a meager food surplus, less insulation, and so on. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow our food may run out.
I doubt this is an original thought at all (probably been said many times, many ways), but I find it comforting. I don’t have to feel vaguely hypocritical because my memories of Christmas are about that (pagan) tree, the little family traditions my parents made up, stockings and Santa, waiting for people to open MY presents to them…Christmas belongs to me, too. Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule, Chanukkah, Dong zhi, Modranect, Yalda, whatever. I think we’re hard-wired for winter holidays, to celebrate inside with fire and food while Nature frowns. It’s our right as children of a tilted planet. Enjoy, and happy feastings.