Saturday, December 29, 2007

I had a blue Christmas without you

I felt more than a bit empty around Christmas this year. For the first time it seemed completely devoid of meaning. No one believes in God. No one believes in Santa. There's nothing particularly thrilling to give or get. There's just an obligation to pour money into the pockets of corporate pricks and fill our houses with crap none of us needs, or even really wants.

I remember Christmas as magical. But, as I reflect on my childhood, the magic of the holiday was closely tied to religious ritual. Coming into church on a Sunday soon after Thanksgiving, back when Christmas lights didn't begin showing up by Halloween and could still be cause for celebration, we'd find the Advent wreath suspended from the rafters. Oh, yes! Christmas is coming! The three purple candles, a pink one for the third Sunday of Advent, a white candle for Christmas Eve. Each candle with its own story and symbolic meaning.

The beautiful haunting Christmas carols. O Come O Come, Emmanuel was my favorite. It still gives me goosebumps. The nativity display. The Christmas story with its shepherds and wise men and camels and bright stars and inns and stables and mangers and gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oh my! I just loved it all.

My poor darling children have none of this, thanks to me. I, like many of my generation, have largely rejected organized religion. Unfortunately, I now understand hypocrisy and oppression and believe that the church is guilty of all the sins it forbids. But what do we do about our spiritual longings? How do we find meaning and impart that meaning to our children who are daily bombarded with despicable messages from our commercialized world? For meaning surely does exist.

I am at a loss when it comes to recreating Christmas magic without a little baby Jesus to help me. And I can't just pull him out of a box in the attic and blow the dust off of him so he can lay in his manger Christmas morning. My parents did this, and it was okay, because we knew all about him, every day of every year, so it didn't smack of phoniness like it does when I try to bring him into the Christmas mix.

I have no answers. My children sense my sadness around Christmas, and they know it has something to do with religion. But it doesn't really. It has to do with meaning, significance, all things lofty and sublime. It has to do with my remembered feelings of joy and sheer awe at the birth of the Savior. It's the Christmas spirit that, without a miracle, my children will never know.



Swiss Miss said...

I feel your pain. Since the election is right around the corner, and religion is a huge issue (whether it should be or not), I've been thinking a lot about this. When I listen to Huckabee talk about compassion for the poor, and all of that, I'm caught up in his spirit even though I know that this is irrational.

This drive to complete secularism and rejection of all religion leaves me feeling empty and only perpetuates the divisiveness in the discourse. Some think art can unite, but I don't see art uniting when it is done outside the context of some unifying systematic belief system, or life philosophy, if you will, that speaks of compassion and interconnectedness or of wrath and redemption, whatever the unifying idea might be. Anything done outside this context of spirituality just feels random and haphazard, and has no power to unify, though it may be thought-provoking and wonderful. We need our myths, goddamnit.

You could strive for a Buddhist Christmas next year, but you may have to forgo the presents, since Buddhism is about non-attachment and simplicity. It'd be interesting to see how it plays with the kiddies. Also, a celebration of the winter solstice in a cabin somewhere and lights and with everyone cooking sounds like a wonderful way to spend Christmas.

Marie Walden said...

Swiss Miss, very poignant comment. It helps me to know that I am not the only thinking person out here stuggling with floating spiritual yearnings.

I might try the Buddhist Christmas idea although my kids nearly died when I told them that Santa was goin' green this year and would bring no electronics of any sort.

They seem plenty happy with their board games, books and knitting needles...

suesun said...

Thoughtful reflections.

When I walk into a church, any church, but especially the old ones in Europe with their ancient incense smell, I am overwhelmed with two impulses...... one to kneel in quiet awe, the other to destroy (or at least yell, "bullshit!") as Jesus did in the temple.

We need new rituals, that's for sure, and I have tried to create some for my family. But I still miss Christmas eve service.
You don't have to be a Christian to find hope in the birth of a baby on a cold, dark night....

I was a Unitarian for years, and found great connections there.... lots of good-hearted, thinking people, and real religious traditions. You may want to check it out if you haven't already. They have a lovely xmas eve service as well.

A Joke:
Q; "What do you call an atheist with children?"
A: "A Unitarian"

Something about having kids and wanting to give them meaning leads many to the Unitarians.

Here's to waiting on a miracle in 2008!