What Christmas Means to Me

I’m going on vacation for two weeks to visit family and it’s given me reason to pause, reflect, and think about what Christmas means to me. I hear a lot about not having “Christmas trees” in schools and how it has to be “Happy Holidays” now instead of “Merry Christmas” and all that. It’s unfortunate, and I think my kids are missing out. We’re not teaching kids tolerance or cooperation with some of these things, but rather if you don’t like it, change it to what you like. But, that’s not the point of this post. So, here we go.

I don’t believe in God, or Jesus, heaven or hell.

I believe in energy, both good and bad, and when asked my religious affiliation, I usually assign myself the agnostic tag. Not because I’m unsure that God exists (I don’t believe we were created by a single, all-knowing sometimes benevolent, sometimes violent, almost always indifferent being), but because I want to believe something happens with our energy, that it transforms and we live on, remembering all the things we’ve done in this life. I do not want to die (ever, really) not remembering my children and grandchildren. I believe there’s something after this, just not angel wings and parties in the clouds.

All that said, if you want to wish me a “Merry Christmas,” and you’re religious, please do so. It’s not going to offend me. If you’re not religious, and want to wish me a “Merry Christmas,” please do. I’m going to explain why, and you can stop now and say it was TL;DR and just know I won’t be offended.

It’s always been Christmas, and it’s never been celebrated in my family as a religious holiday. It doesn’t really matter to me if you think the holiday is a celebration of Christ’s birth or if the Christians stole it from the pagans to try and make Christianity more inclusive and appealing to the masses.

Why doesn’t it matter to me? Because no matter what scenario played out true in that world, in that time, that time is not now, that world is not this world. The past is just that, the past, and it’s as simple as remembering that. It only impacts my life as much as I let it, and why should I let something as inconclusive as the origins of Christmas ruin the spirit of good will and giving that surrounds it?

We were all about Santa Claus and presents and snow and reindeer. We had Christmas Trees and Christmas Lights and Christmas Dinner and Christmas Stockings. We had these things in school, too. We put up a Christmas tree in the classroom. Our little school concerts consisted of Frosty, Rudolph, and The Little Drummer Boy. We sang Christmas carols, both religious and non, and it was fucking okay. As a side note, we also said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, and that was fucking okay, too.

If we wished you happy holidays, we were referring to the collective trio: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

I didn’t grow up feeling pressured to believe in this or that, I just grew up to be me. Christmas was a big part of that. My family isn’t the best at showing its emotions to each other. We don’t get all choked up over not speaking to each other for three or four weeks, sometimes longer. I physically call my parents when bad shit happens, when there’s a visit planned, and in lieu of those, it’s like every couple of months. And until my dad got a cell phone of his own (not a corporate phone) I wouldn’t even text him. Now I text him more regularly, but honestly, I text with my bank more than my dad.

But Christmas, man. We all got together, and it was riotous. Laughing, grab-assing, tons of good food. Man, lots of love and kinship and the best times of being together. That’s not to say we weren’t there for each other the rest of the year, we were, but that was “life was we know it.” Uncle Dan moving? Let’s lift some fucking boxes. Cousin Phil getting married? We’re all in.

For me, this extended to everyone as I grew older. You need some help with something? Yeah, I’m in. Otherwise, I’m still here, living my life and doing my thing. If our paths cross, great! If not, no worries, I’m still in when you need me.

Christmas was the one time of year it was okay to tell people what they meant to you. It was okay (as opposed to creepy) to give people gifts, to compliment them, and to be that guy. I still hold onto that feeling now. It’s far less creepy to give a friend a little $5 trinket or a hand-written note or a spontaneous hug now than it is on say April 17th.

Granted, the older I’ve gotten and the more offended the world has become (and don’t take that to mean some offenses aren’t valid, they absolutely fucking are), I realize it’s not creepy to be that guy. It’s often misunderstood, but that shouldn’t stop me. It does, more often than it doesn’t, but people change gradually, as does the world. This is the time to explore those good feelings, to more or less put aside your life and join the raging community that is family–immediate, extended, and all other humans–and treat them all well.

So please, wish me a Merry Christmas. I want to know you care enough about a fellow human being to reach out. I will respond in kind, regardless of the reason for your season. It’s always been Christmas, commercialized or religious, right or wrong, and I hope it always is.

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