I can’t remember when it happened exactly, but I broke up with Christmas. At first I said, “Hey! Our relationship is much deeper than gifts, so let’s write letters to make sure our relationship doesn’t become superficial.” For years I wrote letters and sent cards to hundreds of people. The message was simple and consistent, Jesus is the reason for the season; but, overtime I began to wonder if that declaration was true.
If Jesus is the reason for the season then why do we focus on everything but Christ during Christmas time? Shopping, Santa, stockings, trees, baked goods, gifts, mistletoes, candies… Christmas is one big giant sensory overload. Initially we would do a “Happy Birthday Jesus Party” to keep our focus on Christ. Upon examining Christ’s birth a bit closer, I felt like I had been in a relationship with someone who had been lying to me about their past.
Christmas started to feel more like an arranged marriage rather than the advent of my Savior. Christmas is something my parents introduced me to. I really did not have a choice whether or not I was going to enter this relationship. I never quite understood why adults would teach me not to talk to strangers but would dress me up once a year, take me to a complete stranger, have me sit on his lap, whisper in his ear, and tell him what I wanted. They would even go so far as to encourage me to write a letter to him and include my home address. Is it just me, or is that creepy?
Christmas traditions perplex me. No matter how much I tried to tie biblical meaning to holiday symbols for my children, it just felt like I was doing a different version of the same thing. Revamping Christmas traditions to put a Christian twist on them felt more like embellishment and conjecture.
My favorite non-traditional Christmas celebration was called, “Bring Your God Given Gift.” It was a party in which we encouraged all of our friends to celebrate Christmas by sharing their talents to honor God in lieu of exchanging presents. If a person cooked, they brought a dish. If they played an instrument, they played a song. If they had a gift of speaking, they shared a message. Like the various parts of the body we got to see every joint supply as something significant. For many, I believe it was one of the first times that their God given gift had been acknowledged in a formal setting.
For every stage of my Christmas detox there have been aspects that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have always loved sending and receiving mail. For years we would write a family newsletter, send a photo greeting, or mail a Christmas poem out to loved ones and friends. It was one of my favorite ways to commemorate the holidays. I think overtime, social media has diminished the impact of photos because we share them so frequently. I still find it endearing to receive Christmas cards, but I did not feel like taking the time to mail cards this year. Time and money saved from addressing envelopes was spent with my family. My only regret is that older relatives (who aren’t on social media) won’t have the excitement of opening an envelope and seeing our faces this season.
I am not a killjoy. My kids do get to experience winter fun. We occasionally accept invitations to Christmas parties and we make memories with our friends. But we refrain from the consumer driven pressure to purchase gifts. Commercialism has not corrupted our kids. They enjoy both giving and receiving gifts throughout the year but we have never done a traditional gift exchange.
Prior to being married, my husband and I witnessed children disrespect their parents over unmet expectations on Christmas morning. We decided long before having kids that we would not create an environment for our children to believe that Christmas is when you get stuff. Our children cherish the gift of presence not just presents.
Breaking up with Christmas is a process. It does not have to take place over night. We have baked cookies for neighbors in pastimes. Passed out cozy socks and blankets at the nursing home, and purchased gifts for single parents. I am not sharing this to brag on our family’s good works. I am sharing this to help someone not feel bad about relinquishing man made traditions. It is okay for you to break free from something that might be perfectly fine for others but just no longer works for you. It doesn’t mean you love Jesus any less. It may mean that you find yourself free enough to love Him more.
My most frequent memory of Christmas when I was younger was a desire to give, but a feeling of never having enough that would follow. These days I rest in knowing that I owe man nothing but love. I find it far easier to love others well, when I can do so in the absence of buyer’s remorse. The only debt I will enter the new year with is a charge of being present in people’s presence, and loving them with the love of Christ.
Do you have a non-traditional way of celebrating Christmas? If so, feel free to share in the comments below.