"Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe."
- Christopher Moore, "The Stupidest Angel"
The quote is what has been coming to mind, and the title is what I've been yelling from the day before October all the way up to Thanksgiving. At the sight of every prematurely hung garland, and upon passing by houses which traded pumpkins for light-up lawn elves weeks ago, I have shook my fist like a cantankerous old fart in defiance of the Christmas spirit. I finally stepped back and admitted defeat after two events: 1. The arrival of the December issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, and 2. The annual hunt for, and decorating of, the perfect outdoor Christmas tree with my husband and father-in-law. And these, I think, have been the only two things keeping me sane this November/December.
All of this comes down to one question that has set up camp in my brain this winter: Should I celebrate Christmas? Now, when I say Christmas, I am in fact referring to two holidays. One is the religious one, and one that I've never really celebrated in the first place. When I was younger I enjoyed setting up our manger scene, and as I got older I enjoyed corrupting the manger scene ("Lauren, why are all the figures looking at Mary? Isn't it cool, mom? I made Catholicism!" For those of you playing the home game, Jesus in the middle is Christianity, a tree is paganism, nothing is Unitarianism, the cow is Hinduism, Joseph is freemasonry, and the sheep is a cult.). Still, I've never actually sat down and prayed for the holiday, and never have celebrated the birth of the savior. No. My family and I celebrate the second Christmas - the commercial holiday. We use the time for family, food, and gifts. I'm all for the family and food. Food is a given. :) But I'm not so sure about the gift thing anymore.
Gift giving is an art - what you get, where you get it, how you wrap it, who gets it, etc. This year I'm having difficulty on all fronts. I especially have trouble with this universal expectation that I am supposed to give gifts, but even more, the expectation that I'm supposed to ask for gifts. After leaving the realm of childhood, the whole tradition has become strange to me. Not to mention, when I sit there around the Christmas tree and open present after present of stuff, I start to get pretty mean. I get slightly miffed wondering what I'm going to do with large badger head. Then it slowly turns to angry when I think, "I spend all year giving my stuff away to the Goodwill store! I've finally gotten rid of it and now I'm have to clean again!" I think the spirit of giving is lost on me.
So if I'm not going to celebrate the commercial or the religious, then what will I celebrate? Yule is definitely there, but I'm trying to create Yule traditions from scratch. I need help. For those of you who celebrate Yule, what kinds of traditions to you have for your family? Where do you find good Yule music outside the Mediaeval Baebes? And where in gods' names do you find Yule cards that don't just say "Happy Holidays"? And for those of you who celebrate Christmas with family and another holiday on your own, how do you mix the two?
These are all in addition to the question I asked my mom a few years ago: "Mom, why do we celebrate Jesus' birth?" "Because he was a good person who helped other people." "...Then how come we don't celebrate Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday? He was a good person too." "Fine then! Fine! Go celebrate HIS birthday! I don't care! You won't need any presents this year then!" ...I add to holiday stress levels.