What Christmas means to me this year

A friend recently informed me that there is indeed a War on Christmas. “Oh yes,” she said with the utmost gravitas, “They’re making it very hard for us to celebrate it.”



Santa swag in Hue, Vietnam

As always I sought to respect the beliefs of others and to offer compassion to those in distress. Wasn’t easy this time. Because as far as I can tell Christmas is the single most dominant and widespread cultural construct in human history. No other holiday, religious or secular, comes close to globalized Christmas. Even New Year’s, a factual necessity of having a calendar, is more diverse and scattered.


If anything Christmas is TOO dominant, having already won its war when it supplanted the midwinter festivals and traditions of the pre-Christian pagan world. I’m pretty sure Christmas can hold its own.



Okay, so sexy wardrobe malfunction Santa is a little nontraditional

Or can it? Has modern consumerism killed the Christmas we cherish? Depends on what Christmas means. (And who “we” are.) Does Christmas mean the birth of Jesus? It surely can. Granted, the older tradition says January 6th, but the Bible doesn’t say. It’s religion, not science, so if you say it’s the 25th of December, then that’s true for you. But as long as they don’t delete the 25th from the calendar, skip straight from 24 to 26, you’re pretty safe.


Is it giving gifts to tell your loved ones that you care about them? Another beautiful interpretation. As far as I can tell, a prohibition on buying stuff is the single most unlikely event in our human future. And since no one can tell you what spirit to give with, not much concern here either.


And if Christmas means going around saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone without caring who you’re talking to, then even if that were in danger (which I don’t believe it is) that would be a pretty shallow meaning to the holiday, wouldn’t it?



Scores of these little fellows running around, this one in Hanoi

So maybe Christmas is something more abstract. Deeper. Felt but hard to articulate. That’s the one I’m feeling this mangled freeway wreckage of a year. When democracy failed on the global level and love was defeated on the personal. 2016 feels like one big dark winter right now.


What do you need in the middle of winter? Warmth, light, hope, love. A reminder that winter is a season, and as with everything in life, it passes. But even better, it’s beautiful in itself. The cold and the dark are just more facets of Beauty. It’s the other side of the “Everything shall pass” coin, take solace that the bad will pass, but appreciate the good because it is finite too.


And holy Christmas crapcakes there’s a lot of positive. The world as a whole is still a peaceful place. The human spirit still wants to do no harm, yearns to offer support, and needs to offer love. I’ve certainly got a lot of love in my life. Family and friends, old and new, so many faces of goodness at an individual level.


And loss? What do I do when I remember that this time last year I was in Holland with my lady? The lady who’s no longer mine.


I remember that to focus on the painful end is to forget the joyful entirety. What an incredible thing it is to love! And that relationships don’t always last forever doesn’t invalidate this, it only makes it stronger. What a marvelous gift to have held something so strong and so delicate, so finite yet everlasting.


I sit with that. And the faces of my loved ones. My folks in their new home. My siblings on their paths. My friends at home and abroad. Each of these is a shining point of connection and caring, spread around the world until a map looks like a star chart.


I sit with it. Like a warming fire in the middle of winter. And it feels like Christmas.

Update: nevermind, there’s a War on Christmas after all. This was on loop. 15th time around. And I cut it off right before the baby noises took over.

Merry Christmas anyway!!!