An online friend recently posted in frustration about being "totally over" Christmas. I've been over the commercialism and the consumerism for years. Like, most of my teen and adult life. I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by a family of like-minded people. We're quiet celebrators. Yes, we're Catholic, so there's the religion thing (even for me, the professed I-don't-know-what-I-am-but-it's-somewhere-between-Catholic-and-pagan-and-Buddhist) but more than that, what does it for me is peace, and joy, and hope.
Yes, peace. Even in the midst of the bullshit and the craziness and the parking and the crowds (um, I live in The Christmas City, USA. This town is All About Christmas, All The Time. For reals.) and the fact that I'm always in finals until the middle of December, PEACE. Peace because in the midst of all that, I'm still able to connect with something slow and dark and quiet that comes out of the midwinter darkness of the longest night. Peace because I can get back in touch with myself, and the people I love, and what matters to us, which is each other.
Joy, because nothing makes me happier than the quiet goofy happiness that Christmas eve brings to my mom, even as she approaches...um, a number I won't mention on the internet. Or having my small family mostly all together every year with our same quiet rituals of midnight mass followed by a 2 am bottle of wine, sleeping in, homemade buttermilk waffles and my sister's sweet orange rolls that she makes for Christmas every year because she made them once years ago and I loved them so much that she now makes them annually. The wise men who start out at the far end of the living room with Eddie the Troll Doll in the Santa suit and tramp a little closer each day to the nativity under the Christmas tree. (Yes, my mom moves them. And sometimes talks out the action. She's a children's librarian, she's allowed to be kooky like that.) The phrase "regifted underwear" that can bring us to tears of mirth. The phone call to my other sister at the monastery in Chicago to ask her what time midnight mass is. Midafternoon naps. Reading our new books by Christmas tree light. Vegetable ornaments. Thomas Tallis's Spem in Alium. Joy.
Hope, because nothing makes me happier than the turn of the solstice that signals that light is coming. Slowly, but it's returning. Life goes on. My divorce was finalized on this date a few years ago, and I thought for sure I was going to flat out die from loss, darkness, and loneliness. But the light returned, as it does every season.