(Your humble narrator sighs, then carries on.)
As a kid in the 50s, I, like pretty much every kid in America who wasn’t Jewish, couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. My sister and I would get to open two presents on Christmas Eve—one of our choosing and the other one holding the new long flannel nightgowns our mother had sewn for us at times when we weren’t around to see. Our nightgowns themselves were no surprise—the color/pattern of the flannel was, though it was always holiday related.
Christmas Eve night was a sleepless affair. I’d lie in bed staring at the clock all night, wishing to sleep, wishing it was 6 a.m., the time of rising on Christmas day declared by my mother. It never was. It never, ever was. My sister slept the night through (lucky kid), and I’d have to wake her when it was time. I didn’t always get what I wanted, and that was disappointing. But after all, the anticipation of a moment is almost always better than the moment itself. And that was the Christmas of my childhood.
I continued to decorate as an adult, collecting ornaments and eventually a 4’ fake tree, until the year my dad died in 2008. I just couldn’t. And I didn’t for six years. Then, in 2014, I pulled the tree out and set it up again, early in December. I loved the lights, how prettily they twinkled, especially at night. But when Christmas Eve hit, I realized that tree hurt. My soul screamed in pain at the sight of it. I don’t know exactly why.
I’m not a child anymore. I have a tiny family, the members of which either celebrate Hanukkah or work many extra shifts the month of December, and are, therefore, not available. (Yeah, bring on the whine and don’t forget the gouda.) I’m alone, and it’s depressing. Why salt the wound with the presence of the tree?
I took the tree down, stored all the decorations dutifully and tossed the tree itself in the trash. It had seen better days, as had I, and it was time to let go of something that no longer worked in my life. I haven’t put up any decorations since.
That is not to say I don’t observe the winter Solstice—that moment when the sun appears to turn and head back to the northern hemisphere. That holiday has substance, requiring no faith whatsoever. It’s a scientific fact—the face Gaia presents to the sun will shift as she makes her way around her star.
That is also not to say that I disrespect those who celebrate any of the myriad of holidays which “coincidentally” land at this time of year. To all of you celebrating out there, enjoying your families (I hope) and expressing your faith, I wish you all the best for now and the new year. (And don’t forget my special holiday gift to everyone—Fractured and Tainted free through Christmas Eve!)
*From my Aussie friend who wrote of doing something “over the holls.”