Every year at around this time, I have a recurring nightmare. I’m at a party at my family’s old ranch house, and all of my friends and relatives are there. Everyone keeps coming up to me and giving me gifts and cards and smiling and hugging me, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s going on. I know I’ve forgotten something - I can feel it - but I don’t know what it is.
Then it hits me. It’s Christmas day, and I’ve completely spaced on the entire holiday. I mean, I’ve done NOTHING - I haven’t bought a tree, put up lights, gone gift shopping, made food, drank eggnog, mailed cards, NOTHING.
My mind races. What should I do? I rummage through a nearby desk, hoping to find something I can MacGyver into several dozen wrapped and tagged gifts in less than ten minutes, but all I come up with are rubber bands and a box of thumb tacks and one of those weird plastic water bottles with the sponge on top that people used to use to seal up envelopes. Back when you used to have to lick the flaps of envelopes to seal them. Back when we used to send mail through a place called the post office in a thing called an envelope. (We used to write on these envelopes in something called “cursive” or “script” writing. But that’s another blog post…)
So I stand there, panicked, without so much as a flask of spirits or basket of food or even the most modest of cards. I am entirely empty-handed.
The fact that I’m in my underwear hardly even matters.
The point is, Christmas confounds me. For most people, it’s celebrating some guy’s birthday by doing things that this guy would HATE. Frenzied shopping that sometimes erupts into violence? Gorging on food and wine until we’re sick? Bickering over saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” You must be fucking kidding me.
For those of you who truly believe that there’s a “war” on Christmas, you should ask yourself which side of that “war” Jesus would be on. The fact is, Jesus would want nothing, and I mean NOTHING to do with this holiday the way we celebrate it - let alone to have everyone claim that we’re all celebrating the day of his birth.
Which it isn’t, by the way. The date and time of Jesus’ birth isn’t recorded in the Bible, but most scholars agree that Jesus was NOT, in fact, born in December - because of the position of the Star of Bethlehem, Jesus was probably born sometime in the spring.
Christians of olden times made the decision to celebrate Jesus’ birth on the winter solstice because there were already Roman and Pagan traditions in place for celebrating the shortest day and longest night of the year. The idea was that the fledgling Christian religion could gain some cred and recognition by piggybacking onto these more popular religious celebrations that had been going on for centuries.
In this way, Christianity gained a foothold, and soon became the more dominant religion. Then, once in power, Christians went about exterminating those who refused to celebrate Christmas properly. By which I mean, their way. Which Jesus would have loved. Clearly.
And as best I can tell, celebrating Christmas “properly” means showering adoration on a guy who preached constantly about helping the poor, living simply, and peace - while at the same time indulging in behavior that’s not all that Jesus-y.
So the way I look at it, there’s only one solution.
In order to be respectful of Jesus, I’m going to have to insist that we all take the “Christ” out of “Christmas.”
Jesus won’t care, I promise. He’s a modest guy. He wouldn’t want people making a fuss over his birthday in the first place. Plus, as I mentioned, it’s not his actual birthday, and frankly he’d probably be pretty pissed off over the violent and intolerant circumstances that led to us celebrating on this particular day to begin with.
And that’s not even to mention the WAY we celebrate “his” day. Seriously. If you, like me, intend to spend this holiday season drinking, carousing, gift-giving, gift-getting, decorating a tree, dancing around a fire, and eating yourself silly, then you CANNOT in good conscience call what you’re doing “Christmas.”
It’s so unfair to Jesus. It really, really is.
From now on, I propose we remove the “Christ” reference entirely and instead celebrate “*$&%@!Mas.” It’s perfect. Everyone can enjoy the darkest and longest nights of the year by indulging in all kinds of naughty, hyper-indulgent behavior. You know, over-spending, over-eating, over-committing, over-indulging, and going overboard in general.
By which I mean to say, the holiday stays exactly the same as it is now except for the fact that we don’t drag poor Jesus into it anymore.
Maybe we can have a celebration for him some other time of the year that involves penance and self-reflection and humility and homage to the poor...
I suggest August. It’s relatively holiday-free.
I wish you all a splendid *$&%@!Mas.
Love and Peace.