I find myself celebrating Christmas less and less with each passing year.
And even though this year is my “baby’s first,” the trend continues: no-no-no rather than ho-ho-ho.
Christmas is no longer a mere day or even a weekend. It is a whole season whose start creeps earlier and earlier each year. The navidad mayhem now begins even before they’ve cleared out the Halloween costumes. “Black Friday” sales the day after Thanksgiving start earlier and earlier, with larger crowds ready to knock each other over (or worse) as they stampede for the merchandise.
I used to adore Christmas as a child, of course. It was an exciting, cozy fun time, full of twinkling lights, holiday movies and hot cocoa with marshmallows, shopping until dropping, hand writing and mailing cards, wrapping gifts and consuming plenty of cookies and egg nog.
I loved listening to my parents’ record of Bing Crosby carols while decorating the tree and house with my mom’s million yuletide knick-knacks. Being from Austin, there was never any snow, but a sunny, 60 degree Christmas Day was perfectly fine by me.
As for the religious origins of the season, I am not Christian and never really have been, though I was raised Catholic and made to go to church every December 25 during my childhood. Even then, the holy day was only partly a religious celebration of Jesus’ birth—and mostly a celebration of our freedom and privilege… to consume.
Oh, the packages, boxes and bags!
At the school where I work, we put on an annual Christmas play. This year, it was a bilingual version of the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Not only did my class sing and perform in the play, we also read the book multiple times (in English and Spanish), watched the 1966 cartoon and discussed the Grinch’s character and transformation from mean hermit to fake, thieving Santa to big-hearted champion of Christmas. The Whos teach him that it’s not just about the trees and decorations and gifts galore; they sing and radiate happiness anyway.
I love Dr. Seuss, don’t get me wrong, but that is a load of b.s.
Let’s be honest. Christmas is bought. It is about the presents.
Okay, maybe I am a little more like that ugly, old Grinch than I’d like to admit. In this analogy, Who-ville is the United States, best imagined as the vast hallway of a shimmering shopping mall, decked out in its full Christmas regalia. I am that bitter expat living outside the borders, scowling at the rampant consumerism and shallow platitudes.
Except I’m not plotting to stop Christmas from coming, I’m just opting out of it.
I’m opting out of having my kid’s picture taken with some white dude dressed up as Santa Claus.
I’m opting out of putting up a Christmas tree at my house, whether real or fake.
I’m opting out of buying gifts just because advertising and marketing tells me it’s the time to purchase gifts for all my loved ones.
I’m opting out of eating and drinking way too many rich foods and beverages.
I’m opting out of watching TV with all its overbearing commercials for products I don’t want and pharmaceutical drugs I don’t need.
I am opting to let go of expectations about giving or getting the perfect gift.
I am just plain opting out.
I am, however, grateful for the holiday-inspired vacation from school. I am thoroughly enjoying each precious day in its unplanned, unscheduled glory.
I can’t stop Christmas from coming, nor do I want to. I am, in fact, celebrating it, in my own quiet and small ways. And so, to you, I whisper: “May you be safe, merry, healthy and free this Christmas and every other day of the year.”
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