I recently received the following email from a friend who is a no-congregational Unitarian minister regarding the Christmas season:
Don, ‘Just wondered how you keep your sanity at this time of year as the “hoopla” builds? I don’t celebrate it either, and each year I feel more like a ground hog wanting to hibernate.
Here is some of what I wrote back:
Hi, and thanks for your note. I appreciate your sentiments/
I have to say, other than the facts that they start playing Christmas songs before Thanksgiving and -a long-standing pet peeve – that Christmas has co-opted Winter and keeps all the good “let’s be happy about the snow” songs to itself, leaving nothing left for January and February when we could really use those songs – the whole thing really does not bother me. I enjoy the music – you’ll find me at St. Peter’s on Christmas Eve – and I love the lights.
Part of a strong identity (religious or otherwise) is the ability to look at the culture one is immersed in and say, “This or that is nice, it is beautiful, it is good, but it simply is not mine.” I am OK with that and that is what I try to convey to our students.
I would imagine that this time is most difficult for those who believe that Christmas should be Christ-centered. Frankly, I would resent it if I lived in a world which said, “Yom Kippur is a cultural holiday with no religious significance, so let’s all celebrate it, use it to support the economy by turning wants into needs and needs into desperate needs and be the best consumers we can be, and try to get those who do not share the essential beliefs or values of that particular holiday to “get into the holiday spirit” anyway. I can imagine the frustration of some of our Christian colleagues who are fighting the holiday spirit of commercialism.
Incidentally, and this might be interesting for you, there have been those who have suggested that our neighbors across the street from the Temple (lovely people) keep putting up bigger and brighter Christmas decorations each year just to be “in our face;” but I don’t see it that way. Frankly, the brighter the lights in front of their lovely home, the easier it is for people to find the Temple in the dark. As far as I am concerned, it is win-win.
For me, Chirstmas is an opportunity: I am working with a group of local Muslims to form what we tentatively call the “Muslim/Jewish Social Action Alliance.” We are right now looking for volunteer opportunities for Christmas day to help our brothers and sisters who should be at home celebrating that day instead of working. I put in a call to the hospital – do you have any other leads or thoughts?
Anyway, thanks for your note. I wish you a very happy, healthy, and fulfilling Solstice…