For the last several years I feel like I’ve become something of a Grinch; but it’s not that I was trying to put a stop to other people’s Christmas. I was just actively choosing not to really participate outside of giving gifts to my immediate family and having dinner with the few members of my household. I stopped caring about any sort of decoration and actually encouraged myself to care less about the tree, the angel, the lights, garlands, even donning the Santa hat just for kicks. I avoided purchasing any seasonal wear. I avoided light shows, caroling, and disassociated with Christmas parties of any kind. I had just decided that December was just another month, Christmas was just another day we arbitrarily celebrate, and while I recognized it as an important day of celebration as a Christian, I purposefully deadened myself to the reason for the season.
There’s something to be said about celebrating Christmas; upholding traditions, and participating in the joyful community that surrounds the holiday. There’s something to be said about lit houses, shiny trees, gift exchanges, Christmas songs, and even the silly decorative cups that compliment the season.
Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about the last several days:
Christmas is a Part of Western Culture
Because it’s so widely recognized and celebrate, it’s easy for people to forget that Christmas is an incredibly western celebration. Whether you’re celebrating St. Nick or Jesus Christ, they both have influence in western society, though specific rituals of celebration may be different from country to country.
It’s even less surprising that many people forget that Christmas is inherent to American culture. I think that’s largely because there are so many Americans who don’t understand what the basic idea of American culture is. I know so many people who don’t think America has a culture; they’ll simply say that American culture is the mix of other cultures; but mixing Mexican culture with German culture with Polish and Italian and every other culture you can think of doesn’t fundamentally equal American culture. America has a cultural identity infused with freedom, hard work, personal pursuit, family, justice, righteousness, and charity.
It’s important to continue to celebrate it traditionally because it is such a centerpiece of our culture, just like Thanksgiving (which has a historical context for its happening). Societies and communities keep their culture alive through celebratory events. Every silly Christmas song, movie, and celebration is the continuation of American culture and American traditions. When a people stops celebrating and passing on their traditions is when they die.
In a society that constantly tells us we have no culture, we’re actively being erased and it’s not passive erasure when you have government bodies banning Christmas images, characters, and songs. When traditional American practices are outlawed because it ‘might offend someone,’ the people banning the practices are actively murdering their own culture and what are they putting in its place?
A blank red cup.
I thought the outrage at the blank red Starbucks cup last year was pretty silly. It wasn’t until I really thought about the Christmas season this year and the cultural implications that I actually began to understand how important it is that we continue to decorate, adorn, and celebrate Christmas.
And look, you can celebrate other people’s culture without erasing your own. Japan’s very own celebration of Christmas was inspired by the West as Christmas, as I stated, is western culture and yet, despite their adoption of Christmas celebration the Japanese have not lost any Japanese culture. Their still homogenous, proud of their culture, and protective of their history. Americans need to stop believing the lie that in order to be ‘inclusive’ they must erase themselves; the lie that you cannot continue the traditions of the country because it might hurt the feelings of a foreigner.
Since when did we go from, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” to “When in Rome, Make the Romans stop being themselves because it’s rude?”
Watch your favorite Christmas movies, listen to old and new Christmas music, and rediscover the Western, and especially American culture, hidden in the holiday season.
It Builds and Reinforces Community
It really shouldn’t be a surprise that a celebration based on coming together, giving, and tidings of great joy builds and reinforces a feeling of community, but I think it often gets forgotten whether or not you participate. Many people can be so focused on getting the most expensive thing on their wishlist or panicking about affording bills because they have to buy so many people so many things that they forget the reason why they’re giving. We have kids who cry about the color of their iPhones and trash their parents rather than feeling the reason behind the gift.
When Christmas is participated in as a community, rather than simply with a materialistic focus, a family builds around those people. Whether you’re participating in a gift exchange at work, or a secret santa within the family, there’s something to be said about receiving gifts gratefully when you don’t expect to receive anything.
This year I put extra effort into participate in a few more Christmas traditions. I don’t have Christmas sweater or a santa hat, but those will probably return with future years as my enthusiasm for the season returns. This year I made the effort to participate in more events, to become part of the community and a conscious effort must be made. By disassociating myself from those celebrating Christmas around me, it created this barrier around me. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been invited to participate in things previously (sort of), but when I turned down the soft invitations, I listened to the laughter in the other rooms and thought, “They’re doing that and I’m over here.” It made me feel more distant from my other people and I think this is truly something discounted around the holidays.
Empathy among people is dropping and some psychologists attribute that to more conversations happening through a computer screen. Then you can couple that with more antisocial choices that set us apart from the people around us, we divide ourselves by ideology, some divide us by biological differences, and we build arguments to convince ourselves to stop interacting with others, then we hate them because we aren’t a part of their ‘group.’ This is a danger of forgoing Christmas events meant to build community.
Don’t get me wrong; not every Christmas event is good. There are poor events with people who are object-focused, or who are focused on tit-for-tat, there are people who turn into real Scrooges. You don’t have to sing Karaoke, you don’t have to get wasted on spiked eggnog, but I think, a minimal effort to participate in family or community Christmas events is a must or you risk enlarging the feeling of isolation in yourself that will carry over into the new year and build with every passing day.
It Restores Some Hope in People
After a long year, your hope for humanity could be pretty low. I know mine is–and this year we have the added feature of an extra long, gruesome election and a huge media syndicate who were exposed as nothing more than propaganda arms bent on destroying our trust in each other. I know hearing lie after lie meant only to destroy has done damage on me.
I think, after a long year of waging through identity politics, lies, and probably family and friend drama, it’s best to relax and celebrate a festive time, exchange goodwill, and restore some faith in your fellow people. I think by partaking in modest Christmas parties with friends, family, and coworkers you enjoy, instead of being stressed out and hateful, it will revitalize. Goodwill is contagious.
I know–it seems so simple, doesn’t it? Yet we make ourselves miserable with the choices we make. We force ourselves apart, we don’t participate by choice, and then many go on to believe they are being purposefully uninvited. You have to force yourself to do good things. You have to force yourself into the mindset you want, for most of us, we are not who we want to be and if we don’t make ourselves do something uncomfortable sometimes, we will never reach the place we want to be. Mike Cernovich and Stefan Molyneux had an excellent talk on “Why Mindset Matters.”
So instead of tapping out, ignoring the holidays, or spending it stressed out beyond all reason, find the people you enjoy and spread some joy. Continue the traditions of Christmas with lights, cookies, trees, gifts, Santa, so the next generation can enjoy it too. Our ancestors are the reason we have Christmas now.
Merry Christmas, guys.