Wrestling with Christmas

It’s not my festival, dammit! And to be honest I never much liked it – a time of year that puts far too much stress on people. I hate the commerciality. I don’t enjoy how it brings into aching focus all my awareness of people I’ve lost, and I know there are plenty of folk out there who have it worse than me on that score. I hate the pressure to be ‘jolly’ and ‘festive’. Also, I am allergic to cloves, so festive food is challenging. Christmas pushes people into debt, and towards suicide. Oh, and I also hate the excessive, electricity eating gaudy house decorations. Why, why do people do this?

But.

It’s traditional, isn’t it? Families have expectations. I have a child. I can’t ignore Christmas and make it go away. My strategy for surviving has long been a mix of embracing bits of it, and full on subversion.

I love the giving aspect of Christmas, but I don’t feel that should be about spending vast sums of money on useless tat. It’s a good time of year to get involved with charitable stuff – so I’ll happily go carol singing for a good cause. I’ve done shoe boxes for kids in war zones – I love doing those and they break my heart. I like giving by doing, reaching out to people who might well be having a harder time of it. I like the excuse to get in touch with more distant friends and family as well.

I make things for Christmas. I tend to give homemade food things, I’ve done pomanders, paintings… things that could not be bought. That feels more real to me. I don’t want to fill other people’s houses with stuff they do not need. Last year my son opted to sponsor a tiger, rather than having a toy from me. I was very proud of him.

It’s possible to be generous without spending. Give of your time and energy instead – it’s far more valuable and meaningful. It’s entirely possible to be happy at this time of year without vast sums of money. Decorate simply, with natural things, or things you have made. Resist the pressure to shop. Happiness is not instore. 

I think the desire for lights is a natural response to the darkness and the grim weather. Nothing wrong with that. A few lights can be very pretty indeed. There are some very nice solar powered lights out there – charge by day, twinkle by night. I’m poised to make decorations out of salt dough. Last year James and I cut paper snowflakes to decorate with. That was fun, and really nice to do. For me, that was one of the happier moments of last year’s festive period. The best way to ward off the darkness is with company, not artificial lights. There’s nothing wrong with darkness, we don’t have to actually fight it, we can work with it, be comfortable with it. A few lights serve, if anything, to emphasise the darkness, and that can be very beautiful indeed.

There’s no one right answer to Christmas, for pagans. There’s no escaping from it, for most of us, but we can subvert it, rework it with our own values, take the opportunities to be creative, and refuse to co-operate with all that is plastic, tacky and unsustainable.