18 December 2009

A Different Kind of Holiday

There was a time when Christmas at our house was occasion for great bustle and festivity. House decorated inside and out, a tree big enough for the eclectic collection of ornaments we've accumulated over the years, artfully (if I do say so myself) wrapped presents piled underneath, hand-lettered cards, cookies, food, the whole nine yards. I was really big into Christmas.

Then, at some point, I got to wondering why we were making such a big deal out of a Christian holiday when we aren't even nominally Christian. Somehow devoting that much energy to a Winter Festival of Crass Commercialism and Greed was not a particularly appealing alternative. That's not to say I didn't see anything to celebrate this time of year. Living for years in gloomy, dreary Lansing, Michigan, and then in gloomy, dreary Seattle, I would always count the days to the solstice, anxious to see the sun (gloom permitting) for a little longer each day. OK, so why not just call a solstice a solstice, and celebrate that instead? We can still have the house decorated inside and out, a tree big enough for our collection of ornaments, presents, cards, cookies, food, and everything else. Most of the holiday symbols (lights, evergreens, wreaths) aren't inherently Christian anyway, although I'm not entirely sure about red-nosed reindeer. Over the years we've developed our own traditions into a celebration that we find satisfying and meaningful. It's more about what we're celebrating, and less about stuff. Although there's a little bit of stuff, too. I mean, get real.

So we usually do a different kind of holiday anyway, and this year it will be even more different than usual. Because of the Remodeling Project That Wouldn't Die, we have piles of construction stuff in our front room. Since our decorations are all in storage, we won't have the house decorated inside and out, and we don't have anyplace to put a tree. Since the solstice isn't a holiday for anybody else, we may even have a construction crew at work. I suppose we could tell them not to come, but if it gets The Project one day closer to being done, we'll celebrate around them. So we'll be doing something different this year, although I don't yet know what, exactly.

Maybe we'll just celebrate by lighting candles on the longest night of the year. We'll build a fire (Seattle air-quality permitting). We'll be together. We'll be warm, and dry, and fed. That would be enough.

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