Christmas blahs

I always feel fairly conflicted around this time of year. I have fond memories of eagerly awaiting christmas. Of course, when I stop to think about what i eagerly awaited, they were, in this order: 1. Opening presents for me. 2. getting 2 weeks off school 3. Chopping down a christmas tree. I didn’t like all the forced-jolility involved in the holiday. I didn’t like that on christmas morning, all our neighbours would come around and I’d be expected to entertain them, and, depending on my age, expected to play the piano and sing christmas carols. Which really, just delayed the opening of presents. Then, we’d all go for a long walk, which, again, just delayed the opening of presents. Then we’d open presents, and as the youngest, it was my job to hand them all to everyone. Which was pretty fun. And very exciting. But then it would be over, and there’d be this huge dinner, which invariably, I didn’t particularly enjoy, although the company was frequently good, if shallow.

I was brought up in an almost evangelically atheist family (sounds paradoxical, but imagine arguing with someone who is religious, or a believer why they’re wrong, and you get the idea. We’d save the world from religion, the same way an evangelical would save the world from heathenism). Ostensibly, we were Anglican, I suppose, and we did the commercialized celebrations of all the various christian holidays.

Since leaving home, thinking about these things, I’ve felt less and less connected to anything christian. Were it up to me, I’d remove all religion-derived holidays from our list of statutory holidays (although I’d replace them with an equivalent, non-christian holiday so we’d all still have the same number of days off) (I’d also remove the queen as head of state and any mention of god in any governmental document. But I’m hardcore like that). Like lots of people, I like receiving presents. I’m as materialistic as the next guy. But I really, really dislike this obligation to buy presents for others that christmas entails, and the weird competition that is associated with it. Birthday presents I’m fine with, but that’s because they’re all about the person who’s birthday it is. In many ways, the recipient of the christmas present is lost in the act of giving itself.

My family is once again gathering on Vancouver Island this year, although I’ll not be attending this year, as I’m heading up to Quesnel to be with Leah’s family (after 2 years of christmas with my family, I really owe her). I understand that christmas is quite a big thing in her family, although it sounds a vastly different experience than christmas with mine, so it could be alright. However, were it up to me, I don’t think I’d celebrate christmas at all. After the first couple of years without chocolate egg hunts, I didn’t miss easter at all, so I imagine that after a couple of years without any christmas traditions, I’d stop missing that too. The time off is still appreciated, however. And it’s nice to take advantage of the time off to see my family, as we live quite far away from each other. But I’d rather it be like us getting together for a canoe trip, or a ski trip — or any random mid-year Tannock get-together, rather than this odd celebration of christmas.

Now, to make myself sound all hypocritical, christmas is an excellent excuse to get things that you want. For instance, Leah and I each want something that’s kindof expensive, and so christmas is the excuse we need to each splurge and get these things for each other, that in any other month, we’d argue against doing for innumerable reasons. Birthday’s are good for that too, of course, but there’s no mutual exchange, which is what will make this fun. Maybe they could be New Year’s presents, although that’s really just justifying by semantics, given the proximity of the two events.

6 Replies to “Christmas blahs”

  1. I too was raised areligiously (minorly-evangelical athiest dad, new age mom), so I share the apprehension.

    Good timing to get me started on this, as I just got back from shopping – let the grumpiness ensue:

    Christmas drives me nuts, and I wouldn’t miss any bit of it if it went poof (Ebineezer Scrooge had the right idea, he was just weak-willed, lacked vision and had a past that made him succeptable to character assasination).

    Even in terms of gifts, I don’t even have romantic childhood memories of it to give it any appeal. My mom was even less impatient than I was for presents when I was young, so the gifts were often open days or weeks ahead of schedule.

    So all I’m left with is crazy consumerism for two months a year and force-fed, watered-down, sentimentalized, co-opted and bizarre state-sanctioned religious ritual. Mmm, my favorite kind.

    One of my petty things I focus on for Christmas – birth of Christ and all – is to be a prick on Easter. I like to go around reminding everyone to celebrate Christ being dead. Yay, Jesus kiched the bucket, let’s have some chocolate.

    To make a long rant short, I’m all for removing the religion from the season (as opposed to removing the season from the religion). The real winter tradition in the west is now the frenetic shopping (which I can also do without).

    Therefore, I’m nominating “Giftmas” for the new holiday name.

    Nicole favors “Santamas”.

    Any other nominations? And since this is my contest, I make the rules, and I say keep the winter solstice stuff to yourself (unless you have a way to make it interesting).

    Last thing I’ll say is that I’m all for giving gifts and such. To compensate, I’d prefer to make a much bigger deal about birthdays, or as I like to call it, “You’ve-made-it-all-the-way-around-the-sun-again-day”. Another perfectly fine alternative is to wrap it all into New Year’s Eve, or as I like to call it, “Culturally-Mandatory-Mind-Altering-Substance-Intake-Time”.

    Now that I’ve vented, I’m going back into the fray to finish my shopping…

  2. I too was raised areligiously (minorly-evangelical athiest dad, new age mom), so I share the apprehension.

    Good timing to get me started on this, as I just got back from shopping – let the grumpiness ensue:

    Christmas drives me nuts, and I wouldn’t miss any bit of it if it went poof (Ebineezer Scrooge had the right idea, he was just weak-willed, lacked vision and had a past that made him succeptable to character assasination).

    Even in terms of gifts, I don’t even have romantic childhood memories of it to give it any appeal. My mom was even less impatient than I was for presents when I was young, so the gifts were often open days or weeks ahead of schedule.

    So all I’m left with is crazy consumerism for two months a year and force-fed, watered-down, sentimentalized, co-opted and bizarre state-sanctioned religious ritual. Mmm, my favorite kind.

    One of my petty things I focus on for Christmas – birth of Christ and all – is to be a prick on Easter. I like to go around reminding everyone to celebrate Christ being dead. Yay, Jesus kiched the bucket, let’s have some chocolate.

    To make a long rant short, I’m all for removing the religion from the season (as opposed to removing the season from the religion). The real winter tradition in the west is now the frenetic shopping (which I can also do without).

    Therefore, I’m nominating “Giftmas” for the new holiday name.

    Nicole favors “Santamas”.

    Any other nominations? And since this is my contest, I make the rules, and I say keep the winter solstice stuff to yourself (unless you have a way to make it interesting).

    Last thing I’ll say is that I’m all for giving gifts and such. To compensate, I’d prefer to make a much bigger deal about birthdays, or as I like to call it, “You’ve-made-it-all-the-way-around-the-sun-again-day”. Another perfectly fine alternative is to wrap it all into New Year’s Eve, or as I like to call it, “Culturally-Mandatory-Mind-Altering-Substance-Intake-Time”.

    Now that I’ve vented, I’m going back into the fray to finish my shopping…

  3. I think i hate christmas more every year. This year I’ve been ignoring it, kinda hoping it will go away. Well it won’t and then it will. I tried to give my mum huge amounts of cash to pay for a high-tech hearing aid, but she refused to take it: i had to resist the urge to say, “if you won’t take my money i have to go out and buy you a present: please make it easy for me.”

    Oddly, my family too is atheistic and very anti-commercial, but christmas is a tradition that seems to be hard to shake. My brother has asked for a donation to charity, and even that seems difficult: as he lives in a different city, can i give to a local charity (as i am wont to do) or do i have to get myself on another dreaded charity list by giving to something more global? Can i just send him a cheque and get him to donate it?

    Really, this is nuts. Why do we do it? The buying and cooking and baking and eating and visiting (and guilt and stress and cynicism — not to mention the unspeakable horror of christmas carols). I think this year i will make a plea to the family, “let’s just stop, please.” As for presents for myself, i always forget that i get presents too, so wrapped up am i in the torment of the gift list. But yeah, it’s kindof a nice surprise when i realise “oh yay! presents for me!”

    Renaming won’t help. Really, if we just all ignore it, it will go away.

  4. I think i hate christmas more every year. This year I’ve been ignoring it, kinda hoping it will go away. Well it won’t and then it will. I tried to give my mum huge amounts of cash to pay for a high-tech hearing aid, but she refused to take it: i had to resist the urge to say, “if you won’t take my money i have to go out and buy you a present: please make it easy for me.”

    Oddly, my family too is atheistic and very anti-commercial, but christmas is a tradition that seems to be hard to shake. My brother has asked for a donation to charity, and even that seems difficult: as he lives in a different city, can i give to a local charity (as i am wont to do) or do i have to get myself on another dreaded charity list by giving to something more global? Can i just send him a cheque and get him to donate it?

    Really, this is nuts. Why do we do it? The buying and cooking and baking and eating and visiting (and guilt and stress and cynicism — not to mention the unspeakable horror of christmas carols). I think this year i will make a plea to the family, “let’s just stop, please.” As for presents for myself, i always forget that i get presents too, so wrapped up am i in the torment of the gift list. But yeah, it’s kindof a nice surprise when i realise “oh yay! presents for me!”

    Renaming won’t help. Really, if we just all ignore it, it will go away.

  5. Steve: If it helps, don’t get me a gift — I’m not buying you anything. 🙂

    As for Xmas in general, I always end up being the token Christian weighing in on things, but I think I’m just as irritated as the atheists every year, if not more so. I heartily endorse the idea of renaming Christmas “Giftmas” so all the Capitalists who insist on turning it into The Big Shopping Festival can have their own bloody celebration and leave Jesus out of it.

    (Just for the record, I don’t currently identify as Christian, but being a minister’s daughter who still gets paid to sing in church choirs from time to time, I’ve probably been to more church than anyone else I know — outside my family, of course. And it does really really bug me that Christian holidays are celebrated outside their spiritual contexts, much as I’ve observed pagans get a little irritable around Samhain / Hallowe’en when everyone suddenly wants to join in the fun.)

    It’s the hypocrisy that sends me up the wall. Ya want to get & give gifts? Good on ya! Just stop using religion as an excuse for it. Bah, humbug.

  6. Steve: If it helps, don’t get me a gift — I’m not buying you anything. 🙂

    As for Xmas in general, I always end up being the token Christian weighing in on things, but I think I’m just as irritated as the atheists every year, if not more so. I heartily endorse the idea of renaming Christmas “Giftmas” so all the Capitalists who insist on turning it into The Big Shopping Festival can have their own bloody celebration and leave Jesus out of it.

    (Just for the record, I don’t currently identify as Christian, but being a minister’s daughter who still gets paid to sing in church choirs from time to time, I’ve probably been to more church than anyone else I know — outside my family, of course. And it does really really bug me that Christian holidays are celebrated outside their spiritual contexts, much as I’ve observed pagans get a little irritable around Samhain / Hallowe’en when everyone suddenly wants to join in the fun.)

    It’s the hypocrisy that sends me up the wall. Ya want to get & give gifts? Good on ya! Just stop using religion as an excuse for it. Bah, humbug.

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