What I’ll be doing this holiday… besides shopping for myself.
For many people, the holiday season is a great consolation for the fact that the days are getting shorter, colder and darker. For me, it’s just… whatever.
I grew up in a deeply religious Christian family, but I never celebrated Christmas. Does that make zero sense to you? Allow me to explain. Back in the ‘70s, my parents joined a church that they believe was more in line with what Christianity was around the first century. The best way I can describe it is a mix of Judaism and Christianity – we celebrated a lot of Jewish holidays, much like Jesus did, and we skipped out on typical Christian traditions like Easter and Christmas, which technically aren’t even mentioned in the Bible as days we even need to observe. After all, it is said that Christmas was added to the Christian cannon by Pope Julius I, as a way to incorporate the winter solstice practices of pagan festivals so that more people would be down with the holiday. That way, folks could still keep their traditions, but they could also promote Jesus as the savior by adding him to the mix.
So, I grew up in a Christmas-less household. There was no tree, no lights, no presents and certainly no Santa Claus. In kindergarten, while everyone was decorating Santas with glitter or making gingerbread houses, I was using icing to stick blue and white gumdrops on my Star of David – even though I didn’t celebrate Hanukkah either since I’m not Jewish. As all my classmates clutched oversized crayons, scribbling letters to Santa, I smugly sat there and watched, knowing it would be their parents fulfilling their Christmas wishlists and not some old fat white guy who feels himself so above the law that he can get away with breaking and entering into millions of peoples’ homes. Seriously, why does no one ever think about how creepy that whole aspect of Santa is?
Usually, when I explain to people that I didn’t do Christmas growing up, I get looks of pity and questions about how I possibly survived without knowing the *transformative magic* of Santa, feeling the excitement on Christmas morning with goodies wrapped up under the tree. Well guess what, y’all I turned out okay. And I don’t feel at all deprived or resentful because I didn’t get the traditional Christmas experience as a child.
Though we didn’t actually celebrate the holiday ourselves, my immediate family always spent the it with our extended family, all of us making the short trip over to my aunt’s apartment in Co-Op City in the North Bronx or trekking it to Teaneck, New Jersey to have dinner at my cousin’s house. Every year, I would watch my cousins excitedly unwrap their gifts, gleefully running around shooting their nerf guns (at me) or changing outfits on their Barbie dolls. Sure, I felt brief pangs of jealousy – it’s never fun not getting gifts when everyone else does, but it didn’t bother me as much as some might imagine it would. I did sometimes get presents from my aunts and older cousins who felt sorry for myself and my brother – usually it would be clothes, unwrapped and brought out to me as my cousins tore through wrapping paper and holographic bows. And as a fashion-obsessed kid, clothes were not a bad thing to get, wrapped or not.
A child perfectly sums up my feelings about Christmas. photo: Facebook
I’m an adult now, and though I’m not nearly as religious as my parents, I still haven’t embraced Christmas, even though I’m totally free to now. To me, it seems a bit disingenuous. I didn’t grow up with the traditions. I didn’t grow up feeling that wash of excitement as the calendar turned from November 30th to December 1. In fact, I most associate this time of year with feelings of dread. There’s nothing worse than having a holiday you don’t celebrate shoved down your throat, as everyone tells you to “get into the spirit.” Girl, no. I will not. I never liked people telling me what my attitude should be at any given moment, and if I want to be a indifferent about the holidays, it is my right as an American to do so. My roommates bought a Christmas tree this year and I still feel a little weird about having it in the house. It’s just not my thing. Besides, Christmas ain’t nothin’ but a celebration of the winter solstice, and being cold and having dry skin is nothing I care to celebrate. I hate winter. And flickering lights and tinsel ain’t gonna change that. But, I will come to your holiday party because your girl loves a good fête.
This is not to say I don’t see why people love Christmas. I get it. In fact, I enjoy being able to spend time with my family around this time of year. I love piling my plate high at Christmas dinner with Jamaican rice and peas, curry goat, and macaroni pie, washing it down with a glass of grandma’s sorrel one of my cousins spiked with more Wray and Nephew overproof rum than should be legally allowed in a drink. I love pouring capfuls that same rum over my aunt’s famous black cake, which is in my opinion far superior to whatever fruitcake monstrosity non-West Indian people are eating around the holiday. I live for Christmas dance-offs in the living room with my extended family. I love how we playfully rip on each other as the night progresses, sharing memories of Christmases past when we would chase each other around the house ‘til one or more of us got an asthma attack. Thinking of these moments is putting a smile on my face even as I write this. But though these Christmas memories of mine will always exist, the fact remains that as I was making these memories, I still felt like an outsider, and I suppose as an adult those feelings have stayed with me. I could argue that they’re just as formative and relevant as anyone else’s memories of putting out chocolate chip cookies for Santa.
And you know what? I kind of like being a Christmas outsider. For me, not celebrating or really caring too much about Christmas is quite liberating. It’s nice to be able to carry on through the month of December without feeling pressure to shop for gifts. In fact, my favorite thing about the season is treating myself to all the discounts retailers use to benefit people shopping for actual Christmas presents. I probably spend as much as everyone else spends during the season, except I just buy myself gifts that I actually want. And I feel zero guilt. Though, it does get a bit uncomfortable when friends and coworkers give me gifts after I tell them not to bother. I know that they’re just trying to spread some holiday cheer, but it does make me feel a bit awkward when I have nothing in return to give them.
Like I said, I get the appeal of Christmas but… eh, it just doesn’t do it for me. But you know what, Merry Christmas anyway, guys. I’ll be sitting here sipping some egg nog, waiting for it all to be over.