Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It is Christmas

Winter Solstice

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It's Christmas time again! They claim it is the most wonderful time of the year, and in some ways I am apt to believe them. The month of December is full of a heady mix of memories of childhood Christmas wonders, of comforting 
White Christmas
rituals of sweets, songs and good cheer and the palpable divine mystery that both the Christian Christmas and the pagan Solstice celebrations commemorate.

Don't get me wrong, there is plenty wrong with Christmas. Finding a balance between the "putting Christ back in Christmas" religiosity on one side and the crass consumerism on the other is difficult. I was actually nauseous the other day, seeing someone's lawn decorations of five foot tall inflated snow globes and light up Santa's sleighs on the roof and fifteen miles of electric lights. The money and resources wasted on such displays is so very needed by poor and starving people all over the world. How can we look ourselves in the mirror when we spend money on that? But neither does the austere, focus on the infant Christ born of a Virgin to die for our sins type of Christmas appeal to me. And then there are the
A Charlie Brown Christmas
smaller, more intimate and familial land mines to navigate during this time of year. Sometimes I wonder if I should call the whole thing off. 

In her wonderful story, Visions of Sugar Plums, Margaret Morrison struggles with this dilemma. She is cleaning up after her Wiccan coven's Winter Solstice ritual when who should come to the door but jolly Old St. Nick. She tells him in no uncertain terms that she doesn't believe in Santa Claus, or baby Jesus or any of the other things that Christmas is all about but he... well, you should go read it to find out what he says to her. Let's just say, that friend speaks my mind.

Rivkah from the blog Bat Aliya, in her post on Sukkot, wrote in other places Jews celebrate Sukkot, in Israel it is Sukkot. In thinking about Christmas this year, I realized how it is important to me to celebrate the festivals of my culture. I don't have any particular desire to be a cultural outsider and really enjoy being a part of the larger activities and celebrations of the people around me. I see enough of the earth based or pagan spiritual impulses in many of the majority culture holidays that I have never been uncomfortable with any disagreements in theology, and in fact, find great comfort in reliving, reinventing and rebuilding childhood traditions around holidays like Halloween, Easter and Christmas.

A Muppet Christmas Carol (the best Christmas movie ever!)
I've said in years past, Christmas is all about treats and traditions, Santa and Sinatra, a tree and a nativity scene and puppies in Santa hats. It's about the Muppet's Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown's tree and candy canes. As I build traditions that come out of my Quaker community it is getting to be more about O Come, OCome, Emmanuel, but I sing about all that snow in Vermont with my other friends.

How does your family celebrate Christmas? Do you have to reconcile theology with culture or do the two mesh well at this time of year? What are your family traditions for food, movies, songs or activities around Christmas time? What did Santa bring you this year?

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Winter Solstice 2008: Good Morning Sun! and also Solstice Creche

Winter Solstice 2009: Christmas and Advent, Awaiting the Birth

Winter Solstice 2010: Christmas, 2010Solstice Story, and The Dark of the Dark 

Winter Solstice 2011: Advent and The Long Nights of Winter

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