Why I say “Merry Christmas!” to all.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 25, 2009
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A lot of people, manyyy of my friends, hate Christmas. And for very good reasons. For anyone who likes green grass and blue skies and clean air and healthy children…well, the sheer volume of crap we give to one another is sickening. Like too much ice cream.

Still, I love Christmas, always have. Even if I was raised Buddhist (!), and still practice.

The Christmas spirit and the Christmas many Americans love to hate are two different things. One is all about Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men (Women, and Children), what’s not to love about that?…and one is generosity gone mad: businesses, understandably, trying to take advantage of this truly holyday so they can pay the bills.

Christmas is not all about crass commercialism, of course. It’s about friends and family and snow and coziness and tradition.

I cherish this quiet, cozy, cold, warm time of year, which is bigger and older than Christmas. It’s a fundamental time of year, for returning to the basics of a life well-lived.

The below poem, Holydays, is adapted from something I wrote up a year ago.


I’m a half-WASP, half-Jew American Buddhist, and I like to have a Christmas Tree. Christmas trees date back to pagan Wintertime rituals. I don’t mind the shining star on Boulder’s Foothills, which many non-Christians regard as a symbolically religious imposition left over from the good old days when America was more of a Christian Country.

I say a star’s a star. I take it from the Christians, and I give it to all people. It’s Wintertime. It’s beautiful, glowing up on the snowy mountain. America is and always will be a melting pot—that’s why we have racial, religious tensions. That’s also why, once a generation or so, we have Suffrage, or the Civil Rights Act, or President-elect Barack Hussein Obama. Next generation, we will return (for we can not give that which is inherent) full rights under the law to our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters.

Growing up in an American Buddhist family, we always had a Christmas Tree, which we culled (legally!) from National Forest lands. My momma called it a Lineage Tree, and hung handmade ornaments featuring pictures of our Buddhist teachers along with old ornaments she’d grown up with, with her Christian Scientist mother. We hung paper snowflakes, and popcorn, and (organic) candy canes, and now I’m all grown up we prefer LED Christmas lights to the old bubbling kind I remember.

I love Christmas: I love simple, personal presents. I love cozyness, and world-quieting white snow, which slows us all down and makes even bustling cities feel like they were Norman Rockwell 1940s landscapes. I love fires, and dinners, and parties with old and new friends and children and elders, people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to talk with much. I don’t see my family, these days, they’re all spread about the US, and money is tight, and that always tinges this time with emptiness.

But I love sadness, as my mom’s Buddhist teacher said it’s the most genuine of human emotions, though we’re not to covet it.

I love, at this darkest time of the year, remembering that life is short, and it progresses quickly, and memory fades, and all that really matters is being a good person, and making the better of two iffy choices every step along the way. It’s a wonderful life, after all.

So let’s put the ‘holy‘ back in the Holidays. Let’s buy gifts that better the world, and support good people doing good things. Let’s put away our phones and laptops and TVs—if only briefly—and make some eye contact, and say the obvious: “I love you, and this is why.” Or, “I’m sorry things have been funny between us. Let’s be genuine, and have a good talk.” Because, before you know it, one third of your friends will have divorced moved away lost their hair become old people or even died of accidents or dis-ease or, you know, life. I’m still only 35, but I lose a friend a year, whether in China to an avalanche or right here at home, just a month ago, an only-recently-perfectly lovely healthy powerful friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage IV.

In Buddhism we say: this precious human birth is fragile. Make good use of it. Think about others as much as you do yourself and you yourself will find that elusive happiness. Meditate a few minutes, at least, each morning, before the ephemeral to-do lists that seem so important, the lusts and the anxieties, clutter up your snowy peaceful dozy mind. Don’t chase after the fast food of life: sex, bad food, money, big houses, cool cars. They don’t make you happy. The only thing that makes you happy is you sorting yourself out.

As my parents’ Buddhist teacher used to say, Good Luck, Sweetheart. We’ll need it.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


24 Responses to “Why I say “Merry Christmas!” to all.”

  1. swati jr* says:

    bless it!

  2. Well done. Beautiful piece.

    Bob Weisenberg

  3. Kim says:

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Ronnie McCarthy says:

    This is lovely. Blessings to you and yours this Holy Day Season! 🙂

  5. lighthasmass says:

    Gud Jul! The dark time on the Solstice is the time to dwell into our inner-being. The red and white which dominates the Yule time is a reflection of Amanita Muscaria… a tool to help with such inward ventures… Again, Good Yule, may the New Year bring peace and contentment.

  6. Hilary Lindsay says:

    My favorite Waylon post to date. "I love sadness". MMMMM so sweet. And I love your clarity. Your feelings of the complexity of being human at time that's intensified speaks for a nation. Nice work.

  7. blueroanhorse says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Let's celebrate this breath!

  8. jacque says:

    Amen & Merry Christmas! ; )

  9. Gabrielle says:

    Yeah, you RITE! Gabrielle and Ragananda

  10. I love this article! I see the lights gleaming in the darkest part of the year and the star transposed onto Earth from some part of heaven. Thank you!

  11. Chispa says:

    This holiday time always depresses me. I enjoy the short days. Love the Winter Solstice. But don't like the regimentation of forced xmas cheer.

  12. Sue Throop says:

    yes…back to the basics of life…thank you for sharing!

  13. […] Before I go into the deeply traumatic scars that came from having all eight of Santa’s tiny reindeer veritably shot dead before my innocent eyes, let me just say that my family does Christmas. Like, well. We make a gingerbread house, we decorate a tree, we even take a Christmas photo and sometimes, sometimes, mail it out (usually around Easter). We sing carols and dip candles and wish perfect strangers a merry, merry Christmas. […]

  14. […] And just in time for the Holy-days, when more than ever we’re reminded of the foundation of a just society that is provided only by “Peace on Earth.” […]

  15. […] Peace on Earth? We can do it, especially around the…er, Holidays! Update: For a(nother) brilliant quote on the War on Christmas by Jon Stewart, click here. […]

  16. SgtGroovy says:

    Wayne, you manifest supreme awesomeness.

    When you go back east to visit your family, Pearl Street just doesn't seem quite complete.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful note.

  17. HeatherM says:

    This is extremely beautiful ! Thank you….how interesting the way you grew up….vastly different, as an example, than myself whose parents thought Buddhists at best were atheists and at worst as 'different'. Or maybe it's the other way round. :0)

    As for sadness….a student of mine once said she felt feeling anger was more 'real' than being sad. I would disagree…and as the Austrian poet Rilke wrote,

    “Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going?"

  18. […] is a piece of all of us that wants to keep that magical glow of holy-day, no matter what religion we practice, what language we speak or what we call our tradition. There is […]

  19. ommarathonlawyer says:

    That is very well said. I am 100% Jewish and that is how i am raising my children however, there is nothing that gets me more upset than people saying to their kids -"we don't celebrate that, don't write Santa a letter – it's not our faith." I heard someone say that yesterday. Every year we go to our friends house and experience a traditional Colombian Christmas. We participate in the ceremonies and put gifts under the tree for our kids. While we don't have a tree at home, we are part of the human "religion" and don't feel that we have to be limited by the bounds of one organized religion. I say merry Christmas to all, and my child wrote a letter to Santa, as Macy's makes a charitable contribution for every letter to Santa. Whether it gets to the North Pole or not is irrelevant – peace and health to all – namaste – ommarathonlawyer.com

  20. […] Click here for “Why I say Merry Christmas to All!” […]

  21. Patty says:

    Love your writing and love the ensuing dialogue. It feels "bittersweet". Which I just realized this moment is one of my favorite emotions:)

  22. maitrilibellule says:

    This was just wonderful Waylon, thank you so much… (And I still miss the bubble lights…) 🙂

    Maitri Libellule http://www.maitriatdragonflycottage.com