Christmas has never been my favorite time of year. In fact, my favorite holiday is Halloween.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up near the poverty line and we struggled so much to just have food on the table that Christmas was too out of reach. The luxury of gift-giving is shoved in your face everywhere you go and look. TV, movies, the grocery store, even the library — no where was safe from the reach of Christmas. But for a kid on food stamps and welfare, I knew all too well that there was no Scrooge (or even Santa) waiting to barge in and turn my meager Christmas into a feast of riches.
It certainly didn’t help that my parents were bitterly divorced and fought whenever they neared each other, something that made my comings and goings between their homes a fear-filled experience. It didn’t help that drunken parties — and the inevitable chaos that followed — filled the landscape of my childhood. And, most of all, it didn’t help that I was molested by a family member and thus feared long passages of time confined at home — which is what Christmas break is, after all.
So, I have never been a fan of Christmas. And then as I got older, I found new reasons to dislike the holiday.
When I was 17 my best friend died in a car accident 6 days before Christmas. Her memorial was on Christmas Eve. And I have the clearest memory of crying on my now-husband’s front steps, his mother hugging me, the chill in the air around us and the glow of their Christmas lights on her house framed over her shoulder. This marred the holiday for many years, as I would feel the loss of my dear friend all over again each December.
And then as I became an activist and started to look at the world around me and evaluate my own beliefs, I began to despise the mass-consumer orgy of Christmas all over again. This time it was not about whether I could afford it, but whether any of it had any meaning. What’s it all worth? Do I really need a new scarf? What’s wrong with the one you gave me last year? Do you really need a new ipod when the one you have still works just fine? And what of all the waste and cost to our planet that comes from this hyper-extravaganza? At what cost come these gifts? And of course, the greater question for me became: How does all this excess express the real meaning of Christmas? How do new things measure love? Closeness? Of course, the answer is that it doesn’t do any of those things. It’s just stuff.
But before you write me off as a complete Grinch, I will admit there are some parts of Christmas I really love. Cookies. Music. Christmas Cards (yes, really!). Togetherness with people you love. And even church. These things are warm and special and full of love and friendship. And there’s nothing bad about that.
This year I have new reasons to consider my feelings for Christmas: my baby girl. Without a doubt, part of the reason I didn’t like Christmas as a kid was that my own mother transmitted her negative feelings for the holiday. Her father died at Christmastime when she was a girl and that always put the holiday in a sour light for her. With that and my own touchy history with the season in mind, I want to start fresh for my daughter.
My baby is only seven months this Christmas. She will not remember this year’s lighted Christmas trees, colorful stockings (hung with care) and gifts. Considering the technological age she’s born to, she probably won’t take much interest in cards — maybe ever. I’m sure she’ll laugh (and maybe roll her eyes) at the photos of her father and me dressed in Santa suits (her too!) for the Santa Run on Las Vegas Blvd. earlier this month. But all these little things are the foundational blocks for me to embrace a new way to see Christmas: through my child’s eyes.
I will still worry about the over-commercialization of the holiday. And I don’t think I’ll ever give up on the idea that we all have enough already. But now I see that I can channel that in a new way. I can use this as an opportunity to teach my daughter about abundance and charity; that we must give back all year, not just at Christmas.
And I can see the fun ahead for me, too. The Christmas mornings full of laughter and delight. Because I don’t live in my old childhood home anymore. I don’t live in fear. I don’t live with abuse. I live in love and joy with my own beautiful family. That’s the greatest gift of all. And I can’t wait to share it with my daughter. With some cookies, of course.
Happy Holidays, dear readers. My wish for you is that each and every day is filled with wonder and delight.