The Christmas Blog- Reflection

ForestWander

photo:ForestWander

My son asked whether I thought Christmas was a religious or secular holiday. I knew where my atheist son was going with this. I cut him off saying I thought it could be anything you wanted it to be. And I do stand by that. I fully recognize that many celebrate Christmas as the birth of a savior. Most of them quietly worship in their churches, but others are a bit more vocal like a neighbor who posted a sign about putting the Christ back in Christmas (the sign courtesy of the Knights of Columbus).  I grew up with the more secular version of Christmas focused on goodwill and gift-giving.

One of the big differences between being in Belgium and being back in the US, is that the US really does get into its holidays, religious or secular. If you didn’t have a calendar to point out the holidays in Brussels, you would never know there was a holiday since there were no overt external signs of any. But here, I walk the dog around the neighborhood every day and I see the Christmas decorations. More decorations on my street than in the entire city of Brussels. I love it! Individuals dedicate time, effort, and money to do this. And I love it! Trivial? Waste of time? Effort? Money? Maybe…

The last few days I’ve been paying attention to the kind of decorations that predominate. How do my neighbors view this holiday- religious or secular? Do the decorations tell a story? I probably pass sixty or more houses on my daily circuit and only three have overt religious items (2 nativities and 1 cross). The rest are predominantly lights, garlands, wreaths, reindeer, snowmen, and assorted popular blow-up characters. And Disney characters and flying pigs aside (yes, someone has one and there is a dragon too!), I do wonder if all this decorating has much to do with the Christmas story at all.

milky way

Perhaps, it’s all about the time of year. A time when nature hides, dies back, goes dormant. When we as humans are denied visual stimulation through color and form. In the starkness and stillness that is winter, we are called inside to quiet. And that call can be frightening, unsettling. And yet, it calls from the unconscious. To counter this we become busy and decorate the things around us as comfort to get us through the dark, cold winter. We bring trees and stars inside. The macrocosm calling to the microcosm, stop hiding, be still, wake.

bty

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “The Christmas Blog- Reflection

  1. I am old enough to remember when some of my friends started saying, “Seasons greetings,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.” It was simply an acknowledgment that not everyone around them was Christian. Even twenty years ago, there were Jews and Muslims on my campus. When Christians started attacking the innocent well-wishers as “politically correct”, they took the spirit of Christ out of Christmas and then accused everyone else of doing so. It still breaks my heart in a season meant to be restful. Welcome back.

  2. Emilee

    Happy Birthday So glad you are back!! Have a wonderful birthday!!Sorry no card this year. Just sprung from hospital. Joined the zippier club. Love you em

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Beautiful post! It was very thoughtful and thought provoking 🙂 I have had this on my mind lately as my first baby is now 20 months. My husband was raised (and still is) very religious, whereas I was not raised and still am not very religious. So it will be interesting to see which way my daughter starts leaning as she grows up. I feel like for most people it’s about the gifts and decorations than religious thoughts, but I say whatever floats your boat 🙂

    • My husband was also brought up religious- (ie. to do certain tasks to check the box but devoid of meaning or spirit). Religion with deep meaning can foster spiritual development. But I think there is also the need for a secular Christmas. A focus on doing charitable deeds, being good to others, fostering kindness, choosing to see the good in humanity are all valuable in spiritual development. Christmas can be celebrated any way we choose. Hopefully, your son will benefit from the best of both experiences.

  4. Yes, this is the dark side of the year and we crave light. I think that’s one reason for all the decorations (which are mostly lights).
    But, as you said, it’s also an opportunity for us to turn inward and contemplate and, yes, appreciate
    all those parts of ourselves that we keep in the dark.

  5. Loved your thoughts, thanks for sharing.

  6. I enjoy wandering and seeing all of the emerging holiday lights – very spirit-lifting. Thank you for sharing the beautiful images, too. Lovely tree (and very nice cat sculpture on the mantle!).

    • Many hand-made ornaments and others collected over the years. I tend to the traditional red/green theme. Used to wrap Victorian glass beads in tiers when the kids were little (but it’s so much work to get the symmetry right). And for some reason, the real, living cats are not showing much interest in tearing the tree apart. Miracle of the season!!

  7. Susan Bernhardt

    Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays!! Christmas is celebrated differently now than it was when we were young. It was more religious back in the day. Now it often is about getting gifts. People then didn’t make a big deal about how you said Merry Christmas, because everyone did. It really didn’t matter what religion you were. That could be because of the city I grow up in. There were seven Catholic churches with schools up to grade 8.

    Today I was shopping at Trader Joe’s. An Asian woman kept talking to me about crackers and macarons, etc. I was starting to wonder even…lol. This was for at least 4 minutes. When she departed, she said, “Have a happy holiday.” I was just about to say Merry Christmas, in fact I think the “Mer” came out. Then I changed it to Happy Holidays. Does that really mean anything? Instantly I thought maybe she wasn’t Christian and that’s why I changed what I said, to be inclusive. 🙂

    • Yes, I also remember when saying “Merry Christmas” wasn’t a challenge in any way. It meant “Seasons Greetings” for the most part. I don’t like the hyper-focus on being politically correct, but I do like the idea of inclusiveness.

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