So This is How it Feels
I have tried to be neutral in honor of my “Swiss” Christmas this year, but it has been very difficult. It is amazing how many people make small talk this time of year by saying something along the lines of “so, are you all ready for Christmas?” At times, I’ve said something dismissive like “just about” and other times something philosophical like “are we ever REALLY ready for Christmas?” But there have been those times that I have been very honest with people and tried to explain this great experiment that Robyn and I are doing.
At this point, I usually get one of three reactions. The most common is the blank stare while it registers. This concept is very foreign to many people and so it knocks them backwards for a moment or two. If they are able to regain themselves enough to make a comment, it is usually something like “Wow! I don’t know how you’re going to be able to pull that off”. That’s a good safe thing to say. It is non-committal. With a comment like that, they don’t have to tell you what they really feel. And, to be truthful, they probably don’t really know how they feel at that moment. This reaction usually comes from those that haven’t given anything like a “Swiss” Christmas any thought at all.
The second reaction that I am likely to get is a moment of hesitation followed by a knowing smile. Some have even said that they were either doing something similar or were going to be having a greatly reduced Christmas celebration this year themselves. These are the people that acknowledge the fact that they have done too much in years past and need to reign in the craziness on some level. Some do it because the family has gotten too big. Others do it because they have a tighter budget. The ones that interest me most are the ones that do it because they haven’t found meaning in the celebration of Christmas (at least for awhile). I’ve been quietly surprised at just how many people there are in this category. I’ve even had some people breath a sigh of relief because even a pastor was going to be skipping Christmas.
The last reaction that I get is the one of astonishment, even disapproval. I’ve heard from more of these people than I thought I would. Or maybe they were just more vocal than others. Don’t get me wrong. They are well meaning and their horrified gasps come from a place of compassion and bewilderment. The most typical response I have heard from this group is one of worry for Elisabeth. (“What is Elisabeth going to do without a Christmas?”) I have tried to respond, though often unsuccessfully, that a fourteen month old child really doesn’t know what day it is anyways. But this seems to fall on mostly deaf ears. As I said, this group is very well meaning. I imagine that there reactions comes so poignantly because their love of Christmas is so strong. I think that this group of people doesn’t feel the same sense of sadness and melancholy that I feel toward Christmas.
Again, I am not having a “Swiss” Christmas because I am losing my faith. It is because this holiday has become something other than an exercise of my faith that I need to lose the holiday. Or at least allow it to gain its own new meaning.
As I spoke to someone the other day about all of this, we got ready to part company and prepared to say our goodbyes. We weren’t going to see each other for a few weeks and she turned to me and said, “Merry Christmas or, ah, I mean, Happy Holidays!” It’s funny how my reaction to Christmas this year can cause others to stumble. I wonder if that is how Jews, Muslims, and others have felt for all of these years as I have run around hollering “Merry Christmas” while they quietly celebrated Hanukah, or Ramadan, or Kwanza.
Please, keep celebrating Christmas as you always have. Don’t worry about me, Robyn, or any of the three kids. Make Christmas what you want it to be. We are doing the same. I can feel God moving richly in my life because of this experience, and I pray that you feel the same. If you don’t, maybe you’ll want to try something different next year…