Christm-ish

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I’d like to feel about Christmas the same way that I feel about Halloween. In other words, I’d like to just enjoy it and have fun. I grew up celebrating both holidays with unqualified joy. Each year through my childhood my family would pick out pumpkins for carving, and, a month later scout for a Christmas tree. But as an adult I can’t bring that same sense of celebration to both because they are just not the same. The difference is that one holiday is religious and one is not, and, as a non-religious person, I’m not sure that I can celebrate Christmas without committing some sort of moral perjury.But I still do. I celebrate Christmas because that’s what I have done every year of my life- it is my “culture” to do so. I keep this holiday for my family not for the family of Jesus, for what it means in the present, not for its etymology.

If it sounds simple, it is not. I know people who are culturally but not religiously Jewish. I envy the casual way they claim a portion of their religion, their ability to be “Jew-ish.” I relate very much to their position but I am gentile, and have never quite mastered the art of walking that delicate line.

On Christmas Eve, I attend church with my family. This act is a concession to my mother and one of the complicating factors in my Christian identity. While in church, I can hardly keep from scoffing at the near constant stream of absurdities delivered straight-faced by the preacher. Their God is not my God. Their story is not my story. I bow my head but I do not say “Amen,” I pass the wine but I do not partake in communion. I sing the songs but I don’t say the prayers. Even these minor acts makes me wonder: is my participation an act of fraud? How can I celebrate this holiday without perpetuating a belief that I do not share?

Most children are raised to believe in Santa but somewhere along the way, they learn the truth about the fat man in the North Pole. These enlightened youth find a way to reconcile this new understanding of the world without losing Christmas; it will never be the same to them but they carry on celebrating it. As for myself, I lost the meaning of Christmas twice over: first when I stopped believing in Santa and again when I stopped believing in Jesus as God.

At varying times in the past I have rejected Christmas outright, wanting to make my beliefs understood and respected. And now, for better or worse, I have reached a point in my life where I no longer care to make a point with every act, I just want to enjoy what I have.Luckily, there are still a lot of other things to believe in when it comes to this day, and though I may still be tuning the dials to find the right way to celebrate, I know that the importance of family is one I’ll never lose.

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