Saturday, December 27, 2014

Giving up Christmas

Very, very many years ago I gave up the secular holiday called “Christmas.” I do not like its cloying sentimentality.  I abhor the enforced gaiety of the season.  What is this mania that seems to grip the dominant culture of the U.S., as if we’re all supposed to be joyous and carefree, evidenced by massive expenditures during the consumer orgy that reigns from “Black Friday” through Christmas? 

I am not joyous when I consider my personal status, including the economic fact that I haven’t had a significant salary increase in over a decade.  I’m not joyous when I learn that the homeless population in our small town is growing dramatically.  I’m not joyous when our state legislature ignores the cries of the poor and hungry and sick, while they suck at the teat of Rex Sinquefield.

I’m not carefree when I watch what’s happening in the world around me.  The re-emerging racism in our country, often directed toward President Obama, and the systemic racism manifest in the death of Michael Brown and the aftermath in Ferguson.  The Ebola crisis that continues to grip countries including Sierra Leone, where many of my fellow parishioners still have family and friends.  The seemingly insoluble problems in the Middle East. The miserable chasm between rich and poor in the U.S., where “the American dream” now rings like a hollow joke. 

I can’t begin to count the number of people who, in the past two days, have asked, “How was your Christmas?” The question comes from co–workers who don’t really know me, waitresses, and shopkeepers.  Do they really want an answer?  I doubt it.  It’s like the co–workers whom I pass in the hall who, as they pass me, ask, “How ya doing?”  Do they want a real answer?  No, they do not.  If they did, they would pause and meet my eye as they ask the question.

What do they mean when they ask “How was your Christmas?”  I have no idea.  I had a rich and blessed Advent.  I was blessed to serve as crucifer at my parish’s midnight mass.  I was grateful that a couple of women in our parish decided to make Christmas dinner for all who wanted to come.  It was a blessing to share a Christmas Day meal with so many people whom I enjoy and treasure. 

I had a blessed Advent, while most of the populace was on a spending spree.  I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the church family I treasure.  That made it a “good Christmas” to me. That’s more than I could have hoped for. 

As for the economic American “Christmas.”  No, thank you.