Christmas and Other Holidays – A Frank and Open Discussion

I am unapologetically a Christian, I regularly attend church, and I exercise faith through daily scripture reading, prayer, and other works synonymous with being a Christian.  Being a Christian, I embrace freedom, especially freedom of religion; “Let [all people] worship how, where, or what they may.”  I am not smart enough to tell anyone, convince anyone, or try to force anyone to believe anything.  As a point of fact, my articles very specifically encourage you to find your answers, much as I have done, through study, learning, and faith.

Yes, this is a discussion!  I do not understand Christmas in any way, shape, or form; while this also applies to all accepted holidays, Christmas is my focus.  If you understand Christmas better or any holiday mentioned, feel free to teach me so that we both may learn more perfectly.  Christmas, as a child, was only once a time of wonder.  I remember that Christmas; I must have been 6 or 7 years.  I do not remember what I got for Christmas, but I remember how I felt.  I have not felt similarly since, and while I know why, I do not understand how to put the wonder back into Christmas.

Annually, Christmas, New Year, and the rest of the mid-winter holidays are a time for deep depression.  I struggle to feel anything from Halloween to mid-February; think London Fog as a mental condition, and your close to understanding what is happening between my ears annually.  As a child and teen, the holidays were always a time of stress, increased drama, and tons, and tons, of dishes.  The holiday season brought increased torment as parents’ stress (especially) resulted in increased violence (physical and mental).  Thus, I learned not to appreciate the holidays but loath the workload, violence, and abuse and view the holiday season as a time of greater pain and suffering.

Don’t even get me started on how to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day.  There are holidays, and choosing to celebrate or not is just as important as how to celebrate and whom to celebrate.  The biggest mistake society makes is trying to force everyone to celebrate the same holiday!

As an adult, mainly due to the depression, I avoid stores between Halloween and mid-February, like the plague!  The music of “Christmas” does not lift, and I find it difficult to hear.  To me, the people during Christmas are more challenging to be around.  I do not understand their choices and changes in attitude, their happiness, nor share in their wonder and excitement.  The pagan beliefs Catholicized into Christmas traditions blow my ever-loving mind!  I do not see Christ in a decorated “Christmas” Tree or other Christmas pageantry.  Simply put, every Christmas Tradition, generally accepted by Christendom, is stolen from mid-winter pagan holidays.  As I have studied the origins and beliefs inherent in Christmas, Easter, Halloween, All Saints Day, etc., I see more and more of the historical imprint of early Catholic Church leaders, and I stand aghast that these beliefs have turned into traditions that bind and hold fast the human mind.

Yet, to not wish someone else, especially another Christian, “Merry Christmas” is to be judged less a Christian.  I do not understand!  I believe in Christ; I believe in and have a knowledge of his reality, birth, life, death, resurrection, and visitation to all the Twelve Tribes of Israel after his resurrection.  I accept Christ as my Savior and advocate before the Father.  But, I do not understand Christmas celebrations or why these celebrations “speak of Christ, rejoice in Christ,” or promote Christian beliefs!  I understand the underpinnings of, and like the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  I see Christ in this celebration of lights and appreciate those who celebrate this simple holiday simply.  But Hanukkah is not a holiday I can fully enjoy either, not for the lack of trying.

I have the same problem with Passover, not for the lack of trying, but I cannot celebrate this holiday, for I feel something is missing.  Easter, will someone please explain to me the lines of logical congruence between a bunny rabbit laying eggs and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  None of the “traditions” of Easter make a lick of sense to me.  While I feel different at Easter than I do with any other holiday, I do not celebrate this holiday either, even though I respect and honor, follow and try to emulate Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, advocate, and hopefully friend.  While we’re on the topic of incongruent traditions, Santa Claus creeps me out!  The fear of being judged without an advocate or appeals process is anti-Christian, but Santa Claus continues to play a fearful role in Christmas.  Worse, the mysticism prevalent in a belief in Santa Claus fills my mind, not with Christ’s giving of himself, but of Halloween!  Tim Burton’s movie, “Nightmare Before Christmas,” is closer to how I see Santa Claus, put him in Halloween, and leave him there!

Yet, here we are, another Christmas celebration is upon the world, and I do not understand!  I like the lights of Christmas and enjoy them year-round, but they are not symbols of Christ lighting the world; they are just lights to me, with no particular holiday attachment.  I am a foodie, but food is just that, food.  No special holiday attachment; worse, as a diabetic, I have to watch how, when, where, and what I eat.  There is no fun in that, no holiday significance, and frankly, no joy in Mudville.

A friend declared, Christmas is about love.  What is love?  I know from significant study what love is not.  Love is not sex!  Love is not punishment, abuse, torment, and throwing all the dishes out of the cupboard and forcing a young child to wash every dish in the house repeatedly until that dish somehow passes an arbitrary level of cleanliness, with frequent beatings for failure to meet that level of cleanliness!  Love is not inflicting pain, causing tears, and being violent.  It has been easy to identify what love is not.  But defining what love is, what it feels like, and how to share love, I have no clue!

Often, I am referred to as a “Cold-Hearted, mean, bastard,” many times, other adjectives are thrown in to describe me.  I wear a “bar-sinister” proudly; I am a bastard!  I fight this nature of myself every single day; sometimes I win, more often I lose.  Sometimes I have thought, maybe this aspect of my character is why I cannot fathom the meaning of holidays, find wonder, or experience joy as readily as others.  Sometimes I think the method of how I was raised is inherent in being that bastard I despise.  Yet, I am a survivor because of the ways and manners of my childhood upbringing, and I have gratitude for being a survivor.  Meaning somewhere in there is gratitude for how I was raised and being a bastard.  I fully appreciate how paradoxical that thinking is.  Remember, a paradox is where two points that appear contradictory at first glance but in deeper understanding are closer than they are apart.

What does being a bastard have to do with Christmas and celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ; thankfully, I can answer that question.  Only in and through Jesus Christ can my nature change.  That single hope is precious to me, remains an impetus in motivating me to change, and powers my striving.  Without the birth of Christ, there could not be a death and resurrection.  Without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, man could not change his nature, understand and possess freedom, or comprehend the higher laws of giving of self, choosing a different method of living, and rising above the natural man and comprehending why man has to rise above his natural beliefs into a higher understanding.

Yes, I celebrate Jesus Christ!  Make no mistake; I am grateful for my Savior; but, I do not understand Christmas!  I cannot fathom a celebration of Easter as currently celebrated and understood in Christendom.  I long for further light and knowledge to more appropriately commemorate the birth, life, reality, resurrection, and example that is Jesus Christ!  I know that only through the merits, mercy, and justice of Christ can I eventually gain the further light and knowledge I seek.  Please don’t think I do not celebrate when I wish you the happiest of holidays; it is an honest expression of a heartfelt desire for you to celebrate and worship how, where, when, and what you may.  Please understand, though, I am not participating, not because I do not believe, but because I do not understand.

A well-intentioned person told me to “Fake it until you make it.”  I have tried following this advice, and while it worked in other aspects of life, I learned more, and faking it stopped working.  Where holidays are concerned, I cannot “Fake it, hoping to somehow, make it.”  Faking it requires a method of belief with a hope.  I have hope and knowledge; thus, I do not have a belief, or reason to believe.  In possessing knowledge, my belief can take wing with confidence, and in that understanding, I can no longer “fake it.”  As a respecter of religious belief, and as a seeker of light and knowledge, there have been times I have thought how easy it could be to be an atheist; but, in possessing knowledge, I understand I cannot live without the belief and knowledge of a Savior, a Heavenly Father who had the sense to hand man laws, cover his mind with a veil of his past life, and tell man to live by faith.  The atheist cannot understand the value in living by faith, for they choose not to believe, even when presented with evidence.

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, speakers, and characters from history. He understood the chasm between choice and the consequences of choosing not to believe and live according to beliefs. Mark Twain is another character, author, and speaker who I deeply admire and appreciate, for many of the same qualities exhibited by C. S. Lewis, are found in Mark Twain.  Thus, we find both an exemplar of the principles discussed and another issue with the holidays.  Knowing what I know regarding the origins of the holidays, the traditions adopted and Christianized, and the chains which bind from traditions, I struggle with celebrating holidays.

As a child, I asked why do we decorate a Christmas Tree?  After removing all the religiosity, the answer was because their parents did it that way.  Why did we feast; remove the religiosity, and we find it’s because everyone else celebrates holidays (peer pressure and traditions) with feasting.  In the movie and play “Fiddler on the Roof,” the primary character sings, discusses, and lives under the iron fist of tyrannical tradition, and I am left with one question, “Why?”  Why do something just because it is tradition?  Jesus Christ brought freedom of conscience; believe how, when, where, and what you may, act and live according to your beliefs, and you are exercising freedom and liberty.  Where does tradition fit into belief and living according to choice, freedom, and agency?

Bringing the conversation back to principles of freedom, choice and showcasing how decisions determine destiny.  Again, I am not casting aspersions, nor trying to convince anyone to do something they are not comfortable with, nor am I denigrating or deriding anyone’s beliefs, traditions, or methods of worship or celebration.  My intent is not to cause a crisis of faith but to understand for myself.  Please, embrace your freedom to choose to worship, and celebrate, how, where, when, and what you may.  In possessing this freedom, allow others to worship and celebrate how, when, where, and what they may.  Enjoy your holiday traditions and celebrations.  But, please do not judge me as less because I do not understand, believe differently, and live according to my beliefs.

Santa Claus coming to town fills me with dread and despair, not hope, wonder, or joy.  A white Christmas is not a dream for me but a symbol of more snow to shovel, even though I LOVE watching the snow fall and playing in the snow.  Christmas trees do not thrill me but represent a ton of work to put up, more work to maintain, and more work to take down.  Food is not a celebration but represents more work, time, effort, and sacrifice, for momentary pleasure.  While I enjoy food, eat food, and talk about recipes to make food, I do not worship at the altar of food or see any connection between food and traditional celebrations.

I totally get it; the Children of Israel fled Egypt the Passover is a sacred remembrance and should be celebrated; but, Christ showed a better way, and through that better way, the bitterness of fleeing is swallowed up in joy.  Why eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread as part of the tradition and celebration?  Joy is knowledge with aspects of painful experience encapsulated in achievement.  Thus, to me, the flight of Israel shows how faith, painful experience, and achievement are possible, and I want to shout and sing for joy.  I have always thought of Passover as a time for glorious celebration.  Strike up a band, sing, shout, and make merry, for we survived the Passover, escaped Egyptian slavery and harsh bondage, and now are free!  The same goes for Hanukkah, the resurrection of Christ, the birth of Christ, and every other holiday.  The holiday, to my understanding, represents, or signifies, a reason to make merry because those who came before achieved something through enormous difficulty, suffered dreadful pains, and achieved a better place.  They have joy, and we share in that joy.

Bringing up the final aspect of the holidays, sharing joy.  How do we share in the joy those who suffered experienced?  This is the crux of holiday celebrations.  How we answer this question determines the traditions we embrace; the decisions and consequences produce a destiny.  Consequences are neither good nor bad, simply natural actions formed from a choice an agent made.  How we choose to place a value on those consequences immediately determines how often we will make the same choice again, leading to determined destiny over time and repetition.  Using this understanding of choices and consequences, we revisit the question, “How do we choose to share joy?”

I do not know how to answer this question!  Worse, I feel this single question forms the crux of all holiday celebrations, and I am flummoxed!  Some have suggested I perform more service to share joy.  Others suggest giving gifts.  Others have offered well-meaning opinions, ideas, and suggestions that I cannot fathom as connected to a holiday—leading to a need to understand why.  Why act differently leading up to a holiday when you act in an opposing manner the rest of the year?  Why not act the same year-round?

Again, there is no judging, no aspersions cast, no denigration of actions and choices here.  I am not your judge!  But, these questions are the questions I struggle with living, understanding, and connecting to holiday celebrations.  If you have answers, please share them with me, help me understand how you share joy, celebrate, and feel.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

What Draws People Together? – A Discussion

Father MulcahyWith gratitude to C. S. Lewis, today’s article is not meant to be my pontificating on a particular topic, but a discussion where we work to find commonality and increase knowledge.  I cannot stress this enough; I am not the end-all resource on a topic, especially topics I remain utterly ignorant about.  Love, friendship, charity, and many more are topics I am learning about and if you are a subject matter expert, feel free to join the conversation, add comments below, and let’s learn together.

As we begin, I will stress one more point; it is a pattern I have learned well.  “We teach that we may learn more perfectly.”  Thus, while I remain thoroughly ignorant, I will teach what I know, what I have found, and what I suspect so that I may learn more perfectly what I desire.  Welcome!

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ― C.S. Lewis

As a kid, love was getting beat, having chores heaped up, and being punished as my mother was God’s right-hand person.  Her favorite saying was, “That was God punishing you for what you did.”  I have had a complicated relationship with God ever since I could remember.  Worse, this relationship has been clouded with a misunderstanding about love, chastisement, and punishment.  The quote above from C. S. Lewis is one I have been thinking about and continue to try and understand its application.

What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” ― C.S. Lewis

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” ― C.S. Lewis

These two messages on friendship are, to me, very important.  But, I have found that the importance varies based upon whether people form around a personality trait or a truth.  For example, I choose to be a bibliophile.  Books are fundamental to my personality, identity, and methods of looking at the world.  But not all books are worthy of being in my library or possessing the same value.  When I find people who have read the same book, found similar truths, these people become value-added relationships, and together we move forward.  As a foodie, as a baker, as a distinguished eater of good foods, I have met many people.  But very few of them joined my society for very long, as their association is built upon food, not truth.  Are the distinguishing characteristics understood?

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” ― C.S. Lewis

Consider this unique perspective and inherent truth; we are immortal spirits having a mortal experience.  But, inherent in this truth from C. S. Lewis is the individual’s choice to be either an immortal horror or everlasting splendor.  To some people, I am an immortal horror because of my actions in their society, and to these people, I offer a sincere apology.  These people know who they are, know how they were hurt, and if I could, I wish, I could go back in time and change my actions.  I wish the opposite were true, that there were people who would consider me an eternal splendor, for that is what I have been working to achieve in human relations for a long time now.  Still, I remain an immortal personality, spirit, and individual.

Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” ― C.S. Lewis

Or something to be forgiven for… do you think C. S. Lewis intentionally left this part out in this statement?  What is more difficult, forgiving someone else, forgiving ourselves, or being forgiven?  I do not have this answer, but I find the question intriguing.  I am not venturing into religion, religiosity, or preaching religious dogma in asking this question.  I am merely asking for consideration of a tool.  Forgiveness is a useful tool, for, through forgiveness, we begin the process of forgetting, healing from physical, spiritual, and mental/emotional wounds.  Wounds that cannot find closure and healing any other way.  But one of the things I learned about injuries is focusing on them, poking them, ripping scabs off, all these things, and more are reopening those wounds, where forgiveness is like a really good bandage that holds both a pain reliever and a healing cream to speed healing.  Yet, how often do we refuse this tool, or worse, use this tool for a limited amount, not allowing the entire wound to heal?

“..Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I have met some ugly people whose physical features are terrible, but they are beautiful and lovely immortal beings.  On the opposite, I have unfortunately met some physically beautiful people who are ravening wolves and immortal horrors, where I curse the day we ever crossed paths.  What never ceases to amaze me is that physical beauty and internal splendor or horror are not mutually exclusive or inclusive.  The physical is generally the results of choices others have made and reflect the injuries overcome, whereas the internal is all individual choices, compounded over time, into horror or splendor.  One of the truths I have found is patience is generally the perfect revelator of another person’s horror or splendor, and rushing the judgment always leads to a need for forgiveness.

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Do we understand this pattern, as laid out by C. S. Lewis?  How often has a good friend promoted solitude, silence, and private thoughts and contemplations within ourselves that have led to meditation and deeper friendships?  I married my best friend.  Sometimes we fight like brothers, more often though her input has caused this pattern to be unfolded to me in new and interesting ways.  Sometimes we disagree on topics and get quite vocal in our discussions.  Sometimes we disagree quietly and wait for the other to come around when in reality, we are generally waiting for ourselves to realize and learn.  For the better part of almost three decades, we have lived after the manner of learners, and this friendship has only deepened.  Even though sometimes frustrations run high, the friendship has value for inspiring this pattern to be effective.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis

Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.” ― C.S. Lewis

Does hardship ever come without pain?  I remember my first week or so in US Army Basic Training; the pain in my muscles was incredible, and the torture of physical exercise I thought was going to kill me.  Yet, I put on weight (muscle) because of basic training, I learned endurance, and the results have been nothing but beneficial.  Thus, I could say, basic training was a megaphone of pain to rouse a deaf person to action, and the resulting life changes have been extraordinary.  Do we kick and curse the pain, or do we hold deep to the hope that the pain will lead to something extraordinary?  The choice is important, the pain is temporary (always), and the resulting consequences determine our destiny.

The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career. ” ― C.S. Lewis

Never Give Up!We conclude with this thought and provide honor to those who are the homemakers!  One of the first things I learned as a military dependent is that the military spouses, the homemakers who watch hearth and tend the wounds, are incredible people.  As a military servicemember, I learned a new appreciation for my homemaker and the friends and family who supported her in the ultimate career.  As a veteran, my appreciation for the role of the ultimate career professional has only deepened and widened.  As we go into Thanksgiving celebrations, remember the homemakers, male and female, who, through tending hearth and home, make the job of supporting the homemaker easier and more bearable.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.