I know some of you out there aren’t feeling Christmas this year. Maybe for this reason; maybe for that. But if you’re feeling that way, this rant is for you.
Our lives are governed by the stars. Well, just one star really. I’m not talking about astrology — I’m talking about the Earth’s orbit around our own particular star. And because it just so happens that the Earth takes roughly 365 days to complete its orbit around the Sun, we commemorate all sorts of events on this rather arbitrary cycle. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and the biggest day of them all — Christmas — slide endlessly past us on an elliptical path through the cosmos year after year after inevitable year.
And so we’re expected, every time we spin ’round again, in what is often already the coldest, darkest, most depressing season, to put on our happy face and pull out all the stops and CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! To fully and joyously immerse ourselves in a world of Christmas carols and Christmas parties and Christmas pageants and Christmas cards and Christmas cookies and Christmas decorations and — most importantly — Christmas presents!
But why should we be expected to take part in all of this every year? Why not every other year or every third year? Why not save up our time and resources and throw a really big celebration every ten years? 365 isn’t a magical number that signals when you’re not still sick and tired of something and are ready to do it all again.
None of this is to say that there’s anything wrong with celebrating any holiday at any time in whatever way you find most appropriate. But neither is there anything wrong with choosing to not celebrate any holiday. It’s okay to let Christmas slide for a year, for two, or for however long you want — or perhaps need — to. It doesn’t make you a Grinch or a Scrooge, it doesn’t mean that you’re opposed to Peace on Earth or that you lack Good Will Toward Men. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re not a Christian or that your religious faith is lacking (though both of those might be true anyway).
Christmas is all too often synonymous with stress and pressure and consumerism and anxiety and expectations and even depression. Trite platitudes about the “The Reason for the Season,” “Put the Christ Back in Christmas,” or “The True Meaning of Christmas,” while often intended as a well-meaning antidote to all these negatives, fall flat in the face of the cold, bleak realities that many people endure this time of year. The answer to such problems isn’t always “more,” whether that “more” means gifts or holiday cheer or religious devotion. Sometimes the answer is “less” — less celebration, less expectation, less money spent, even less family.
December 25 is a day on the calendar, a blip on a celestial orbit, a day that would pass like any other were it not for thousands of years of accumulated religious and cultural tradition. Yes, there is an extraordinarily important religious event that’s commemorated this time of year — but there’s no rule in the Bible or the Constitution or Robert’s Rules of Order that says you have to celebrate Christmas in all its puffed up pageantry each and every year.
Dan is the Executive Editor of the Unfundamentalist blog. He is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and lives with two cats.