So I've been thinking a lot about what else - but Christmas.
Tis the season after all.
For years when I was a teenager I felt as though Christmas had lost its meaning, was tied to consumerism, stress, and families getting together pretending to put aside their disagreements just to attempt to present themselves as normal functioning entities.
I remember going to the required Catholic yearly confession (it was my tradition to go right near my birthday) and asking the Priest what the heck to do to make Christmas more special - the answer I got was to think about the good things that happen each day before I go to bed. I tried, it didn't really work. A year later, I was told to reflect on the passages that surround our Christmas tradition, and that didn't work either.
Off to college I went only to be surrounded by Christianity (mostly from an anti-baptist tradition) thrown at me on a daily basis. Never was their a time when I despised Christmas more. It seemed so forced and so fake. So much of a show with power points, rehearsed moments, and the same message that we have to put Christ back in Christmas in order for it to mean something.
I experienced people who were insistent that we should not give gifts at all - for that would make things better. But this never came to in any setting that I was in personally. Yet, I still don't think it would have set Christmas right for me.
I remember arguing with friends about whether or not we should all continue to exist in the world of facades with our families or speak of the deception - should you stir everything up and point out hypocrisy or continue to live in the mendacity of it all.
I left college with 4 additional Christmas experiences
(1) a forced Christmas that was completely hallow
(2) a Christmas where all I could think about was Desert Ecology and the impending visit of Will
(3) a confusing Christmas with tons of travel
(4) a Christmas attempting to bridge families together full of physical pain from arthritis
If you're still with me you probably either feel bad for me or are wondering what awful thing I'm going to say about Christmas... but here's the twist:
For the first time since childhood, I am genuinely excited about Christmas. I've gotten so excited that I've even got my own makeshift advent candles. The whole thing feels as if in some ways I actually expect Santa to bust down the Chimney.
After one semester here at UNH I recognize I need mystery in my life and I'm putting it back in Christmas. No - I don't think santa actually exists - but isn't that the beauty of this holiday? That we recognize miraculous things happen, that we can put aside selfishness in order to give to others?
Its not a bunch of families pretending to be normal - its a bunch of families saying it doesn't matter how dysfunctional we think each other are - because no matter what you're family and I love you enough to show it. In both time spent and in a physical gift.
Aren't gifts part of the meaning of Christmas in the memory of St. Nick who honored the gift from god in jesus? Even if you don't believe in god or jesus (or God and Jesus) or HOWEVER you believe in them for that matter - isn't there something special about trying to live to a greater purpose through love? And that's what Christmas is all about. It's about rising above, believing in something more - believing that the world can be a better place and that we can bring a smile to every boy and girl.
That's what santa is supposed to do right?
When I was a small child I remember coming to the conclusion that there "had to be a lot of santas in order to get the job done". Years later, in the center of my Christmas crisis, I remember thinking how foolish I was to hold on to Santa existence when I clearly knew it was untrue - I held on to it wanting mystery to still exist, wanting something greater to exist. Now I realize, I wasn't foolish at all. In fact, I was 100% correct: there have to be a lot of santas to get the job done, and I hope this Christmas we all are a Santa, bringing a smile to someone in our life. Because, if we are, I think then the true meaning of Christmas is experienced.