I used to be that guy.
The guy who hates Christmas.
It started when I was very young. I was sick for most of my first ten Christmases, so, while most kids greeted the approaching holiday with excitement and wonder, I felt mostly fear and dread. So un-Christmas was I as a child that my teachers unanimously selected me to play Scrooge in our school play.
Our elementary school play.
I was in the first grade. Bah humbug.
When I got into this shaman-thing-a-ma-gig, I was relieved. At last, I could excuse myself from Christmas all together. I was no longer a Christian and shamans tend to poo-poo crass commercialism.
“I don’t ‘do’ Christmas anymore,” I announced to one and all.
And then I met my partner, Bryon. Our second date was on Christmas Day. This wasn’t my choice. It was his insistence. I was new to Taos and had no friends, no plans, for the day. “No one spends Christmas alone,” Bryon said. Never one to miss an opportunity to correct someone, I explained that many folks do, in fact, spend Christmas alone. “Well, you’re not spending Christmas alone,” Bryon said.
“Fine,” I said. “But no gifts.”
He brought gifts. Of course Bryon brought gifts. Two gifts. Plus a vase of fresh-cut flowers.
My doth immediately started protesting. “I said no gifts.” “We barely know each other.” “Now I feel bad because I didn’t get you anything.”
Bryon cut me off. “These aren’t Christmas gifts. I know you don’t celebrate Christmas. But, I missed your birthday this year because I didn’t know you. So, these are your birthday gifts. Happy belated birthday!”
Who says you can’t learn anything from someone half your age? Not me.
In that moment, my inner Scrooge left for good.
In that moment, Bryon showed me that, for years, I had been throwing the spirit of the season out with the dogma of the season. That I had imposed myself into some sort of either/or isolation where, since I didn’t like the way most folks celebrated Christmas, I simply opted out completely. Which was odd. I don’t let society define how I spend the 364 days of the year that aren’t Christmas. Why in the world was I letting society dictate my choices on the one day that is Christmas?
In that moment, I understood, perhaps for the first time in my life, that Christmas is just the wrapping paper for the day (yes, I just went there). The true gift of the day, of the season, whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, the solstice or Festivus, is celebration.
And dontcha think we all could use a bit more celebration in our lives?
Celebration of our individual journeys. And our collective evolution.
Celebration of not only what we have, but also of what we know. That we are loved. All of us. In ways large and small. That we are alive and, if we’re lucky, present. That we are, each of us, temporal waves on the eternal ocean of life. Seeking, experiencing, what all those who came before us did: The simple wonder of being alive.
So, whether you’re waiting in a long line for the gadget your kid just has to have (while your patience taps its foot in the car) or cutting paper to make hand-made ornaments for a tree that’s a bit more bare than you had hoped. Whether you’re packing your bags to join your ever-expanding family or sitting alone wondering how you’ll get through the first Christmas without the love you thought you could never live without. Whether grace has filled your heart with compassion or fear has frozen it with judgment.
Whether you believe in God or gods. Or not.
Whatever, wherever, however you are, pause for just a moment. And take a good look around.
Look at your life. Look at the order, the chaos. The touchdowns, the interceptions.
Look at the world around you. Look at how, even on those days when you feel broken, the world goes on in its beautifully imperfect way. Sunrise. Sunset. Moonrise. Moonset.
Now, lift the veil and look beyond everything you see to take in the jaw-dropping mystery of it all. Consider that, in the end, we just don’t know how it all works, how it all comes together, how we fit in.
The only thing we truly can know is that we’re here. Right now. All of us. Linked arm in arm in what Rumi called the great caravan.
Now, I understand that some may feel such words are cliche, trite or even empty. Such is their choice.
As for me, well now, I have gifts to unwrap.
Gifts of celebration.