Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Noah and I are having a hard time settling into Christmas. We both have a lot of baggage. Even though he is quite unfair and he doesn't have time to sit down and write me essays about what he is feeling I persist in laying my emotions before the internet.

Shanna has been asking me about Christmas. What it means. Why we do it. I told her that just about every religion has some kind of ritual in late December around the longest night of the year. Sometimes it is a few days away and folks try very hard to come up with some kind of "rational" story about why they need to have a celebration then. Stories are very easy to come up with.

I told her that just about every human being has trouble sustaining hope and through the winter is when it is hardest. You feel like everything is terrible and bad. There is no point in trying. Many people feel sad and rejected and unloved at this time of year. It feels like there will never be a return of light.

So in this country we call our mid-winter celebration Christmas (mostly, unless you have a specific reason to call it something else) and if you notice there are a lot of lights associated with it. People like light. It makes us feel like we don't have to be alone and scared in the dark.

I keep my Christmas tree lit for basically all of December. I understand that it is technically a fire risk. I also sleep out there near the tree several times. I always have.

I need the light. I need that renewal of hope every year. It is a subtle thing, but very important to me.

Then of course she wants to know why presents. I said that generosity (giving stuff) and avarice (getting stuff) both make people feel very good. It has to do with the chemicals in our brain. I said that people like combining symbols because that makes them more powerful. If you give gifts as part of a ceremony of lights that is about restoring hope it is like a promise every December that good things will come again.

Even though you are scared--even though it feels like there is no hope. There is always hope. The longest, darkest, most terrible day of the year always brings hope.

Thus we mark it with gifts. Both to keep us from being afraid and to make us happy. And because getting stuff is kind of fun.

In our house we use this as a time of restocking necessary things but getting slightly higher quality or fancier version.

Socks, underwear (if needed), pajamas, soap, consumable objects--both edible and otherwise--provide the bulk of gifts.

I really like giving food. There is something primal and intense for me about being able to feed people. I feel like that is one of the primary ways I have of actually being supportive and loving of the people in my life.

Almost no one in my life needs me to buy them soap or socks. They just don't have need in that area. They do need to eat multiple times a day every day. I can allow them to skip a step of work or save money. That is something I can actually do. That makes me feel good in the same kind of way that going out and picking up garbage in our neighborhood makes me feel good.

And sugar is just awesome. So I give a lot of sweets to go along with my lights and subliminal message of hope. No matter how bitter your life is right now, here is some sweet to go along with it. This too shall pass. Just like the long night will pass. There is always hope.

In our culture we have Christmas and New Years right together. What better hope is there than having a clean slate right after the festival of lights?

Oh, and there was this historical guy named Jesus and the Christians are very big on him so that's why you see Nativities. It's part of their mythology. Luckily we live right next to a Hindu temple so the expression, "It's part of their mythology" gets used a lot. Especially with the uber intense Christian homeschooling family a few doors down.

"Why does she talk about Jesus all the time?" Because it brings her comfort. Don't worry about it.

Our advent calendar is full of things to do. Like fill out Christmas cards. Put up the outside lights. Make cookies. Have a party. Go on a walk and look at the lights. I may try to talk my similarly-community-crazy neighbors into caroling. That would be rad.

I like for Christmas to be a time of spending time together. I have hope because of and for the people in this house. Let's be honest here. I'm a cold bastard. I may love people outside of my house but I can't spend much time having hope for them. It wears me out. I have no control over their lives.

I have to keep my hope in house. This is a far more pleasant experience now than it used to be. Trying to have a renewal of hope alone with yourself is very hard. Now I have these wonderful people to be with.

And I'm freaking out. The kids have broken four tree ornaments and two other decoration pieces in the first three days of having stuff out. I got mad. I yelled. Noah pointed out that I should put the breakable things away before I create a situation I will regret. He's a smart boy. They broke ornaments that were my mothers. They broke the stable that is part of the nativity set that belonged to my family of origin before I was born. I have no idea if it is 35 or 50 years old. Now it is broken.

It is just a thing. Noah is right that it isn't appropriate to get mad at the kids. They are two and four. If I have breakable things I need to keep them out of reach or it is on my head.

That's the part that is different from what I experienced. That is the most important part. I can't get angry with them for being two and four. Well, I can. But making a habit of it is stupid. I think it is ok that Shanna and Calli saw me get angry about so many things getting broken so fast. But that anger needs to stay in that ten minute period and I can't dwell on it.

I've been sick and the kids are cooped up and fussy. And we are all cold. The pilot light will be lit today. Woo.

Getting through all the tasks I associate with Christmas is overwhelming if not structured. That's why I do the advent calendar. Otherwise I freak out and get stuck doing too much on one day and I'm overwhelmed and I end up crying. I cry when I get frustrated being getting mad feels so unacceptable.

I don't feel like I wrapped that up coherently but I have to go start the day.


  1. Kid A tells some pretty funny stories with our nativity set - the character names are correct but the stories are not what one would consider, um, theologically sound. :) there's a flying manger, for example.

    She asked me the other day about the characters, and I told her (after admitting that I have trouble with some of the story) that I believe there was a person Jesus who lived a long time ago, and that Christmas is the holiday to celebrate his birth.

  2. thoughtful answers to Shanna's questions! btw, would love to see you in Dec. Lunch or tea?