I have a confession to make. I don’t know what Christmas is all about.
As a child, I loved Christmastime for the magic and the colours and the presents. It was exciting and fun. In my teens, I developed a romantic notion about peace on earth, good will toward men. In my twenties I returned to the pageantry and threw myself into the colours and the gifts (I am certain that people from my days in Dallas can recall Christmas parties for 300 people, including a gift for every guest). When I was 29 I moved to New York, a city that is known to be magical at the holiday season (and a state where there actually is a winter season, making the Christmas festivities especially festive); and one would think that would feed my Christmas obsession, wouldn’t one? It did not.
For the near twenty years I have been living in New York, I have been struggling (some years less than others) to learn the true meaning of Christmas.
I am not a Christian. I don’t believe that Jesus Christ was born to be a saviour or that he was sacrificed by his father, God, to absolve the humans who followed him from their sins. I cannot believe that any father, human or deity, would cause his son so much agony, resulting in his demise, to save a race from themselves. That’s not my God. I do believe in that Jesus Christ was born and that he was a good, even a great, man and a great teacher and philosopher. I do believe that we are all the sons and daughters of God; and I do believe that God would no sooner cause me, you or any other person the suffering and death that was bestowed upon Jesus Christ. My God is a loving one. All of this is an explanation of why I do not call myself a Christian. So why Christmas? Jesus Christ wasn’t even born in December – I believe he was born in one of the summer months (I have been told). So Why Christmas?
I do not have small children at home. People who have small children at home (I am thinking, under ten – even tweens) have a different goal at Christmastime: making magic for their babes. There are no wee baerns inside of Two-A upon whom I need sprinkle faerie dust and Christmas powder. So why Christmas?
I’m not a commercial man. Not materialistic. I don’t need or want lots of presents, indeed, don’t have room for more stuff in my home. I do like giving gifts but they are usually home made and tailor made to the person to whom I am gifting the item; but I do that all year. So it’s not about the gift giving. So why Christmas?
In my long past I was seriously overweight. In my recent past I was seriously fit. Now I am somewhere in between. It can’t be about the food, though there is always lots of it. I cook and I bake and I feed people and the day after Christmas I give the leftovers away. I eat some of the food but not a lot (more than I should, I admit); but I agonize over the calories and, frankly, I feel physically ill when I overeat, especially of carbs and sugar. And that is not me being over the top, pretentious about my health and fitness regime and my waistline… if you have ever been carb or sugar hungover, you know whereof I speak. So, it’s not about the food. So why Christmas?
I’m an alcoholic. I don’t drink. There is wine and champagne and flaming rum punch all a-flowin’ all throughout the holiday season. People gather by the thousands in Santa Suits and drink themselves into oblivion during the holidays and people gather by the fives and tens in party dresses and do the same in intimate settings. Not me. So why Christmas?
I have been struggling for years to figure it all out. I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas repeatedly throughout my (nearly) five decades on this planet. I have read and I have prayed. I have written and I have talked. All Christmas seems to do is interrupt my schedule, my diet, my life and leave me with a lot of clean up on December 26th. So why Christmas?
I’ll tell you why Christmas.
Jesus, Santa, Peace on Earth, Good will toward men, Children, Cookies, Lovers, Gifts.. all of it… it’s a manifestation of what’s important. And here is what it is: your hand in my hand.
We spend all year working our tripe out to make ends meet and stay afloat. Some people out there cannot even do that. We watch the news and see terrorism on an international and communal basis. We see, in our newsfeed, reports of unbearable atrocities happening to citizens around the world. The world has changed; it has grown weary since the days when we were young.
At Christmastime, though, people look back in their memories and remember what it was to be young, when the world was still magical and anything was possible. All we did was laugh and play.
At this festive season of the year, the people with children live in that love; the lovers live in their love and the rest of us live in that love known as brotherly.
I speak, often, of the fact that my family extends beyond my kinfolk. I have a mother and a father, I have siblings, nieces, nephews. They all have my love and devotion. I also have a family consisting of people with whom I share no dna; we have chosen one another and chosen to call each other “family”. We love each other, though we do not see each other every day.. we do not even get to speak on the phone every day.. or even text or Facebook every day. Nevertheless, the bond is strong; and on Christmas day, many of us do not have to work – so there is a strong chance that, for a brief bit of time, we can sit with each other over good food, good drink, good music, good society and be a family. This was my Christmas experience this year. No gifts, no masses, no Jesus, no Santa (though, I must admit, like God, Jesus – saviour or not – and Santa – myth or man – are always with us, somewhere underneath or beside) – just a tree named Puffer Pennyman, food and family, for a few hours.
That is why Christmas.
And that is why, for some four or five years, I have longed to go into a recording studio and sing this song from the Alan Menken A Christmas Carol. I admit that, the first time I heard it, years ago, when I heard the sentence “to the place in my heart where you’re always home with me ” I thought of my husband, Pat, and my best friend ( and Christmas fanatic) AJ; each year that has passed since that first time listening to the tune, the faces that flash through my head are more numerous. No need to make a laundry list of names here, for they are all in the song, in my mind and in my heart. This year, finally, I took the time and the cash to make the recording that speaks to the family that I will always wish to have with me, every day of the year. They make me who I am and keep me standing and that deserves recognition.
That is why Christmas.
To hear my Christmas song for my loved ones, please click this link: