Christmas Eve 12/24/22

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

That season is upon us once again.  Another year has passed since I wrote about my lonely and pathetic existence for the holiday season, and nothing has changed.  But I prefer writing about Christmas Eve rather than Christmas formal because in my memories, Christmas Eve embodies the spirit of Christmas far better than on the actual day. 

Christ was not born in December.  We’re maybe three or four days away from the actual day Christ was born, if one is to believe the Bible which clearly states that Christ was born as the shepherds were in the fields.  This isn’t the dead of winter, but the pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice was on December 25.  The decision was made in the Council of Troy (who settled a myriad of traditions and beliefs in Christianity) to basically usurp this pagan celebration in an attempt to “erase” the pagan holiday.  When one is trying to convert people from one belief system to another, it’s just easier to adopt the holidays of the one that is being replaced.  That way, those who had been celebrating the winter solstice still had their celebration, but instead of the solstice, it’s the birth of Christ. 

According to the Bible, Mary, heavy with child, and her husband Joseph went to the inn on Christmas Eve, but all of the inns in Bethlehem were full.  In an act of charity, and probably one of the most overlooked act of charity in the Bible, an innkeeper, who could do nothing for Mary and Joseph since the inn was already full, did give them shelter and warmth in his barn.  It might seem cruel, but if you think about it, he could have just as easily turned them away into the cold.  Maybe it wasn’t the best accommodation possible, but it was better than an alley, and knowing they were there, I’m certain that the innkeeper did bring food, water, lanterns, blankets and other things out to them to help them be as comfortable as possible.

During Christmas, people celebrate by giving gifts.  This makes sense to me.  The Three Wise Men all presented gifts to Christ to welcome him to the world, so, in an analogous fashion, we give gifts to those important to us during Christmas.  It’s no different than the tradition of gifts on birthdays as way of saying, “in this world you are a gift to me, so here is one for you”.  The difference, of course, is that gifts are given to friends and family in celebration of the birth of Christ rather than the recipient, and yet, there are many of us that feel as if Christmas has become too commercial.

The gifts have become more plentiful, more expensive, and the focal point of the holiday.  And that’s fine, if that’s what you like.  When I was involved with women with children I did so enjoy spoiling them during the Christmas season, so I can’t even claim that I would be any different, but it’s still heartbreaking.  For me, Christmas Eve better embodied the spirit of Christmas, because that was the day that my family would put out cheese and meat trays (today called “charcutier boards”) and Christmas cookies.  Our neighbors and friends would come to visit and would bring nothing with them but their warmth and well-wishes.  The holiday was more about the comradery rather than the gifts, and was even far more reminiscent of the nativity scene as people gathered to share their love than Christmas itself when we kids would sit on the floor tearing open our gifts in an all-too-brief ritual before passing out asleep because we forced ourselves to get up way too early to see what we got.

I guess that those who celebrate Christmas do so with different purposes in mind.  I’ve always seen it as comradery, but not everybody will agree with me.  Some people see it as a holiday for the children, or for the family.  Some see it as a religious celebration, even going so far as to shun the concept of Santa Claus.  Some see it as an opportunity for giving and sharing in gifts and meals and will even go so far as to volunteer at food shelters.  For me, it’s sad.  It’s a time to watch sacrilegious movies like Dogma, Life of Brian and Rapture-Palooza but I do this so I don’t have to taint the celebrations of my friends with my depression.  Whatever Christmas is for you, I wish you the very best today and tomorrow, and for my friends, my heart and spirit are with you even if my body is not.  And as always, hold space for those of us who struggle with the holidays.  Don’t try to force anybody to “just be happy” or join celebrations if it’s just too painful for them to do so.  They love you, too, so check in with them, accept them for who they are and be thankful for them and any participation they may be able to give.

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