have a holly jolly...um...whatever
My ex-neighbour man Mark brought up an interesting point about Christmas and how to refer to it if you're not Christian. I'm sure I'm going about the whole thing all wrong from both ends of the spectrum - not only am I not a follower of any particular faith (Christian or otherwise), I also don't find Christmas to be an over-commercialised atrocity. So, I suppose that puts me somewhere in the middle.
I've always loved Christmas, and I'll admit, I never considered the religious aspect of it. Maybe it sounds ridiculous considering the origin of the holiday, but the 25th of December didn't make me think about mangers, wise men, and swaddling clothes. As a child, I only thought about being well behaved for Santa Claus, opening presents, and going to my Grandparent's house for our big turkey dinner. The first Christmas ad on television was an exciting milestone, and I eagerly anticipated the onslaught of animated TV specials. I would wake up at 3am, desperately willing the time away until a more reasonable hour, usually bounding down the stairs before 6. I would check to see what Santa had eaten (my Dad always just took a few bites out of the peanut butter sandwiches and cookies I'd leave out, so that Santa could leave his "mark"), and if the reindeer had nibbled on the carrots and sipped from the basin of water I'd left out as well. If we were living in a house that had no chimney at the time, my Dad would make a point of leaving the patio doors unlocked for Santa. It was the best day of the year, even better than my birthday.
As an adult, I still get excited when the first Christmas ad comes on (although they seem to start up earlier each year, and yes, that's annoying) and I absolutely adore the holidays. I love putting up the tree, the house filling with the smell of fresh pine that didn't come from a bottle of floor cleaner. I cannot help but ooh and aaah when the outdoor lights go up and get switched on for the first time. I like buying boxes of Christmas cards; I even like writing them. I love the feeling of finding a good gift for someone, and I'm more interested in watching others open their gifts than what's under the tree for me. I look forward to getting together with friends, plying them with baked goods and having a cuddle with their kids. I cannot wait until next year when our son will experience his first Christmas, and later years when we can leave out snacks for Santa and the reindeer together. Christmas has a distinct feel to me, that can only be described as a general feeling of excitement that's only just slightly less extreme than the excitement I felt as a kid. Very slightly.
So at the risk of offending the Christians and the people who feel that Dec. 25th is an over-hyped abomination, I will stand up and say that I am agnostic, and I love Christmas. It's supposed to be a celebration, a spirit of giving and appreciation. Religious or not, it has always been a significant holiday to me and I think that's the whole point. Christmas is whatever you want it to be, whether it involves prayer and hymns, or dressing the dog up in reindeer antlers and consuming mass quantities of brandy butter.
'Tis the season.