At some point in early November, when Walgreens in its full commercial absurdity started piping in smooth jazz versions of Away in a Manger, I said to a friend, “I’m really not that into Christmas.”
And it’s true, there is a mile-long litany of reasons to be disenchanted with this holiday. The gross commercialization and clanging urgency to spend, the terrible ways Christianity has been used to oppress and marginalize and rationalize violence, all those pasty Santas in all those malls reinforcing the lie that generosity and judgment of good and bad is the purview of white Christian folks primarily or even exclusively…
But here’s the thing: I bought a tree. And took out the decorations, untangled and strung up lights in the window, drank cider with my wife as we decided which star would go where and how to hang the stockings in this apartment with no fireplace, no mantle.
Because the fact is, I’m really into holidays. If I’m into anything at all, it’s the marking of time. I think it’s different for people who have kids, because there are grade progressions and developmental milestones, things that point to the passage of time in really clear ways. But even then, I imagine, time can slip by for the parents and their human progression.
It could be nostalgia or a trick of memory, but I feel as though seasons used to mark time more clearly: the hot summer, the crisp fall, the snowbound winter, the warm and blooming spring… as the climate in this country changes, temperatures fluctuating and interweaving (60-degree weeks in December!), time feels ever more complex and in some ways, undifferentiated.
In any case, the older I get, the more I crave these opportunities not only to mark time, but to do so with joy. If the deterioration of my rotator cuff is going to remind me of my steadily aging body, let me counterbalance that with the annual act of bringing an evergreen into my living room and stringing it with lights and ribbon and ornaments from childhood.
Let me enter every holiday as an opportunity to exemplify and intensify how I want to enter every day: intentionally, with vivid attention, saturated with gratitude for this time, for this life, this choice and this chance to live.
Good Yule to you. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas.