It’s that time of year again! Christmas trees. Bells ringing at shopping malls. Children sitting on Santa’s lap. Non-stop Christmas carols, from the classic to the bombastic. And of course, a relatively new annual tradition: the call to arms in the “WAR AGAINST CHRISTMAS!” We’re told that if someone wishes you a “Happy Holiday,” it’s because they’re trying to kill Christmas. I always thought that whether someone wishes me Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays or season’s greetings, they’re wishing me well, and I appreciate it. But then again, I don’t have a full-time staff working tirelessly to find things for me to be mad about.
Maybe my laissez-Nöel attitude has to do with the way our family has come to celebrate Christmas; it’s bilingual, bicultural, and so idiosyncratic that we would never expect anyone else to celebrate the same way we do. Rosi is Jewish, and although my parents tried to raise me Christian, it didn’t really take. Still, Rosi’s Jewish-Argentine-Puerto Rican family did have a tree, celebrate Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and share gifts, and Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. One of the things I like most about it is how it has always absorbed elements from different religious and secular traditions and synthesized them into a much more universal celebration of peace, hope, giving, and light in the darkness.
Here’s what we do to celebrate Christmas. Tree? Yes. Lights on, and in, the house? Absolutely, though usually not until all the neighbors have theirs up for a few weeks. (I make up for this by leaving mine up until Valentine’s day.) Gifts? Sure, but not to an extreme, and not to the point of stressing about it. Parties? Yes, we try to have one, complete with lots of food (including pozole, a New Mexican stew made with hominy, pork and chile) and everyone singing Spanish and Latin American carols. Religious observance? Not really, but we do have a ritual that means a lot to us. On Christmas Eve, we sit in a circle around a lit candle. Each family member takes a turn holding the candle and saying what has been important to him/her in the year ending, recognizing any friends or relatives to whom s/he would like to send loving or healing thoughts, and sharing hopes for the coming year. When we’ve all had a turn, each person opens one gift, leaving the rest for Christmas day. Why? Who knows? My family always did it when I was a kid, and coincidentally, Rosi’s family did, too. After all this is done, when we should all be snug in our beds, I always seem to be wrapping presents. Christmas day we finish unwrapping presents, drink coffee, eat, see friends, maybe see a movie – it’s kind of like an extra-special Saturday with no chores!
However you celebrate Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/your holiday of choice, may it bring you warmth, joy and relaxation in the company of loved ones. Merry Everything!