Christmas, and the Rest of Us

Every year, around November, I see holiday decorations go up. Starbucks wastes no time swapping to festive cups and coffee, store fronts begin advertising gifts, and sometimes, even Christmas music starts playing everywhere. Amidst the commercialism and effects of capitalism on Christmas, I hear people protest and exasperatedly remind me that “Christmas is about Jesus” or “it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus and Mary and Joseph”. Sure, that’s why we have Christmas--it’s in the name, “Christ”. But times have changed, society has evolved a bit, and Christmas is no longer exclusively about Christianity. Although in this country, we sure do incorporate a lot of Christianity (*cough cough all I want for Christmas is some separation of church and state cough*). Christmas songs include both the celebration of Jesus as well as the thrills of shopping, throwing holiday parties, and falling in love beneath a gentle snowfall. Santa Claus now rivals Jesus. So what about the rest of us? What about those of us who relish in the time we make for family, in making hot cocoa and watching holiday movies, in basking in the soft, warm glow of a Christmas tree (which began as a Pagan tradition, by the way) in ways that have nothing to do with Christianity?


I remember a year or two ago when people got upset about Starbucks having “Merry Christmas” on their cups because it wasn’t respectful or inclusive to those not of the Christian religion. It never really bothered me, but I get it. The switch to “Happy Holidays” was generally a step forward, but for me it felt like...less. Halloween is a holiday. Veteran’s Day is a holiday. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday. “Happy Holidays” felt like it was inclusive but not particular to the December season.


And of course, as a December baby, the season holds a place in my heart. The one year that the first snowfall fell on my birthday, I lost my freaking mind I was so happy. It’s the perfect month to see all the trees wrapped in twinkle lights, go ice skating, wear those cute little Santa hats literally on any day of the month (because it’s impossible to not look and feel adorable in those). I love everything about December: the end of the quarter for college, my family’s little traditions that spread the joy throughout the month, my birthday (the most important holiday, of course), and Christmas. But I don’t like that it’s called Christmas.


I’m not saying that to discredit Christmas as a celebration of Christ, nor am I seeking to ignore the other religious holidays and celebrations that take place during December. I’m saying that because it’s my favorite holiday, but I don’t like that religion is so involved in it still. It has nothing to do with religion for me; nothing about religion holds any place in my life. I have some strong feelings about organized religion, and I have a firm understanding of my relationship with spirituality and how I understand my place in the world. It’s why I found my way to agnosticism. I love Christmas, I want Christmas--I just don’t want to call what I celebrate “Christmas”.


“Giftmas” is cute, but it brings a lot of focus into the gift-giving aspect, an aspect that tends to bring me more stress than anything. I’m usually short on time, I’m usually short on cash, I suddenly remember just how many people I know, and it makes it a little materialistic. One of the things that was great about the way my mom did Christmas is she used to do the 12 Days of Christmas where, throughout 12 days leading up to it, we would do something special as mom and daughters, like getting manicures or seeing a play. The fun would come from the time together and somehow compiling the events into a Frankenstein’s monster-esque version of the traditional holiday song. Getting real gifts is, of course, awesome, but the holiday isn’t always about materialism.


“Xmas” just feels lazy to me. It’s an abbreviated version of Christmas, which doesn’t separate it enough from religion. It also generally bothers me. I love words. I love language. It aggravates me when people get lazy with it.


So what do I call it? What word or name do we get for those of us who celebrate Christmas minus the Christianity? “Winter Celebration”? That’s honestly not that bad and not that far off from what it is, exactly, that I celebrate. And I’m not asking to mainstream it, either. We don’t need to be plastering “Winter Celebration” on every almost-cute Forever 21 t-shirt. I'm just asking for something that doesn't carry the undertones of organized religion to celebrate the love and wonder of the December season.

It's a time of love, family, celebration and appreciation. It's a time to hope for snow, annoy your friends with Christmas songs, and wear those red Santa hats every single day. So this December, as you’re watching Snowflake Lane in Bellevue, tucking in for a night of cocoa and movies, or decorating your tree, remember to appreciate the things and people in your life. Take a second to breathe in and feel the love around you. Happy Holidays. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Happy Winter Celebration, from this agnostic gal to you.