I went out and did some shopping for Christmas decorations today. Some who know me will be screaming out with shocks of joy, delight, or horror, depending on your persuasion. I grew up not celebrating Christmas because of its somewhat pagan roots (please don't make me debate this with you, just check out the History Channel on it and that should suffice), but I married into a family that does celebrate it. The past 6 years of my marriage have been filled with wrangling and debating and soul wrenching guilt and trying to find a middle ground where no one's conscience is seared and no one has to miss out on any beloved family tradition. Completely and utterly impossible, you say? You'd be right. =) There are moments when I hate, hate, hate this time of year because I know that I'm going to come across as Mrs. Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And I don't like coming across this way.
At this point, I celebrate Christmas, though I do it completely in my own way. I enjoy wishing others "Merry Christmas." I have always loved to sing songs about Jesus, so Christian Christmas carols have always been fun for me. I like going to Christmas services and reading the Christmas story and doing an Advent wreath and participating in a living nativity. I got to be the angel on the top of the stable once, and it was great! They put a black light on me to light me all up, and even though I froze my little tushy off, I would do it again. I felt like I got a glimpse of that first Christmas in a new way that night.
I am slowly but surely accumulating some things that make my husband feel like it's Christmas in our house, instead of say, still Thanksgiving. I got a wreath for the door a few years ago, and I bought a red bow for it today. I made a mantel display today with some garland and our nativity scene. I even got little candles for our windows. Hopefully, this will make David feel like the season has come to town.
And how do I feel about this decorating? Torn. And I probably will continue to feel torn for the rest of my life. This is just one area where I must learn to compromise in order to love my spouse. I know, I know, most of you think that my tornness is nuts. What's not to like about decorating, you say? Nothing really. I like decorating and silver bells and red bows and candles as much as the next person. And I want to enjoy them more and fit in better. But I really don't, because I have trouble connecting ribbons and wreaths with Jesus Christ and his birth.
I've heard all the arguments... "We give gifts at Christmas because the Wise Men brought gifts to the Christ Child." "The evergreen of the tree symbolizes eternal life." These arguments just aren't convincing to me. When it's someone's birthday, we don't give presents to everyone we know. We give presents to them. And Americans didn't tend to give presents at Christmas before the mid-1800's anyway... And the whole evergreen thing has multiple historical meanings, including many that have nothing to do with Christmas, so why do I have to sign on to that one? It's up for debate.
All I'm asking, I guess, is that it be ok for me not to want to have a Christmas tree or to give presents at Christmas time. I don't want to be villified as a horrible Grinch because I can't see how those two aspects of Christmas, which everyone, Christian or not, celebrate, have to be a part of my Christmas celebration. They distract me from Christ, so why isn't it ok for me to bow out of that part of Christmas?
It seems like most of the time, when I tell people about my background and the reasons for why I don't give gifts at Christmas, I get offended, defensive comments seeking to justify how they celebrate Christmas. Now, I never said that they shouldn't give gifts or have a tree. I'm tired of the assumption that I'm thinking negative thoughts about others because they participate and I don't. I'm really not. I grew up my entire life being different in this area than most of the other Christians around me. I learned how to live and let live then, and I really don't think much about how other people celebrate Christmas. Being around their trees and their gift giving doesn't offend me. I would give a lot some days not to care at all so I could celebrate just like everyone else and provoke no controversy with my presence. But I simply can't make that choice without feeling like I'm doing something that's taking me, personally, farther away from the only reason for Christmas, so that's my problem to deal with.
So please, please just let me be this Christmas. Don't tease me about spitting on Christmas trees, etc. I don't think it's funny. Can't we all just get along? =)