My memories of Christmas rarely involve presents. Sure, there’s my first bike, with training wheels that barely lasted 48 hours because I decided that if my brothers could ride without them, I could too. Amazingly, I only got a few scrapes and bruises out of that. Witness the power of stubbornness.
What was far more memorable was the love.
Believe me, I loved watching the boys have to behave for a little while (it never lasted long, though). And we all loved getting together on Christmas Eve at Nanny Looper’s house, then the next day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It wasn’t just the food, like Nanny Looper’s Red Velvet cake (my favorite) or the chicken and dressing (which later was supplanted by chili, beans and “Grandma’s Good Soup”) Nanny Terrell made; it was just being together.
And if it snowed (which it did a lot when I was younger), all the better. Snowmen, sledding behind the church (the best hill that wasn’t a road), snow ice cream, snowball fights (as long as there was no gravel in the snowballs … not that the boys would ever do that … when there were witnesses)—it all made for happy Christmases.
A lot of my childhood Christmas memories involve the Dayton 4-H Club, which met (and still does, at the same time on the same day each month) in the community building next door to our house. I’d often write a Christmas skit for the December monthly meeting, which was really just an excuse to sing carols. There was also the program we held every year for the community, always with a version of the Christmas story (I often played an angel, believe it or not … there apparently were no stand-up comedians in Jesus’ time … that I know of, anyway); a visit from Santa and his bags of candy, oranges and apples, and presents for club members and anyone else who wanted to put the presents beneath the tree, usually a huge red cedar, sometimes from behind the building.
Those days, with all that good will and fun, seem like they’re a million years away now, with so many people getting upset about every little thing that offends them and declaring a war that doesn’t exist (don’t make me break out the dictionary again).
I don’t remember a time when I was a kid that we were taught that only mainstream Christianity is acceptable. While the area where I grew up was largely homogeneous (mostly Baptists, Church of Christ and Methodists), other Christian denominations and other religions were represented as well, and most of us didn’t resent that.
Apparently that was wrong.
I was disappointed that some of my friends couldn’t participate in some of our school activities, and sad that their own faiths weren’t being celebrated like mine was. I wasn’t angry that someone dared point out that other religions existed; kids don’t really care about that. I was sad that friends were being left out.
We live in a multicultural world, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating (or not) Christmas, or Chanukah, or Eid al-Fitr, or any other holiday. When public funds are used for it, though, it’s sticky legal territory, and I believe most people understand that.
It’s those who insist that only their way is the right way who muck up the works and make the holiday (yes, I said holiday) season a battlefield in an imaginary war.
“Happy holidays” is not a pejorative, but is a recognition that other people—even some Christians—don’t celebrate Christmas, and that there are other holidays in December (including National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day, which needs to be a federal holiday, pronto!). It doesn’t matter to me whether someone says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays” … as long as it’s not spit out like an invective.
I tend to use “Happy holidays” if I speak first since I have no idea most of the time what religion someone has or doesn’t have if I don’t know him. Is that a betrayal of Christianity? I don’t think so; it’s just sensitivity to others’ feelings.
And yes, I sometimes answer “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Solstice” or other non-Christian holiday greetings when I feel particularly impish. At times, a cackle will also pop out; I just can’t help it.
C’mon, you can’t really say you’re surprised.
I wish I could be home for Christmas, but it’s not to be this year. I’ll instead cuddle with the fuzzy one and watch him play, talk to Mom on the phone, and maybe have a movie marathon.
I might even prepare for the day by getting Festivus out of the way today (yep, every December 23).
I very well may wimp out on the feats of strength (still recovering from flu, you know), but, man, I’m ready for the airing of grievances. I’ll start with the weird aversion conservatives seem to have to Festivus.
Please pardon the cackle.