I suppose you’ve all noticed that it was christmas. It’s pretty impossible to avoid. But this year I almost managed. Or rather, it didn’t really occur to me on a conscious level that it was actually christmas. On christmas eve I found myself sitting on the tram and wondering what was up with all these dressed up people and their bags full of stuff and it took me a while to figure out that they were all on their way to some form of christmas celebration. I wasn’t. It’s been over fifteen years since I last celebrated christmas. I never liked christmas, not even as a child, and I don’t believe in jesus, so it was a very easy decision to make. My parents also took it surprisingly well. Which could have had something to do with how passionate I was about my position. Back then I really hated christmas. I still do, but not quite as passionate. I mean I still loathe the consumerism, the cultural imperialism aspects, the superficial happiness and general tackiness of it all, but I’ve become a lot more indifferent to the phenomenon of christmas over the years. What used to be burning hatred has turned into lukewarm despise. It’s like it doesn’t really concern me anymore. Christmas is something that happens to other people, not me.
I suppose this change in attitude is most likely the years of boycotting finally starting to show result. And I guess that’s also why I was actually able to completely forget that it was christmas eve. I just don’t register christmas anymore. Of course I notice the decorations appearing everywhere and the displays in the stores and all that and thus I do realize that christmas in coming up at some point, but that’s it. When people talk about all the shopping they have left I always need a second or two before I compute. “Oh, they are talking about christmas presents!” Because in my world that concept has pretty much stopped existing. Some people think I’m faking, that I pretend to be confused as some sort of snobbish political posing, like a display of my detachment, but I’m not. I might have behaved a bit like that the first few years, but today my confusion is very genuine. I really don’t take notice of christmas on a conscious level anymore. And for someone who used to hate christmas with a vengeance that’s a bit puzzling, but at the same time it feels like a victory of sorts. Granted, it’s pretty much impossible not to be aware of christmas but apparently it is possible to take notice in the same way you take notice of a sports event you don’t care about. In a detached matter of fact observation way.
Interestingly enough my reactions have also changed. When someone asked me about my plans for christmas I used to proudly declare that I didn’t have any plans because I don’t celebrate christmas but these days my first reaction is a blank stare of confusion. “Uh, plans?” Since I don’t live in the same country as my family I also get the question if I’m “going home” a lot and my reaction to this is pretty similar. These days the idea of going to see my parents for christmas is not only absurd but also a bit ridiculous. Why would I as a grown up person go and see my parents at christmas? Isn’t christmas more of a children’s thing? But from the reaction I get when I timidly suggest this I gather it’s not a common opinion. For some reason christmas seems holy to people, no pun intended, and I really don’t understand why. When I was younger I did take a bit of pleasure the controversy in my stance, of course it wasn’t the main reason, but it did add some flavor, but today it mostly find it strange that my decision to not celebrate christmas can cause such passionate reactions in other people. A lot of people get very defensive and start debating with me. Usually the whole christianity concept is what’s brought up. Do you have to believe in god to celebrate christmas and isn’t christmas actually an old pagan ritual etc. Neither of these of course address my main issue with christmas, i.e. my dislike for the event itself. I actually don’t care that much about the religious connotations, I just don’t like it. But for some reason that reason seems to be even more provocative and conversion attempts have been made on more than one occasion. Some people have even expressed real pity and asked me if I want to join them for their christmas celebrations. Sweet offers, but the point is that I’m actually fine with my approach. I’m not bitter, at least not anymore. I don’t need christmas. The same way I don’t need hanukkah or ramadan or the world championships in sport X. I am doing just fine without it thank you.
I suppose one might think that the decision to not take part in an even that pretty much affects all of society could seem like a hard one, or one that makes you feel very lonely, but it’s actually not the case. In fact it feels liberating. When I see the stress and commerce that surrounds christmas I’m actually thankful that I don’t really have to participate. And I do see my ever-increasing detachment from this event as a good thing because I actually don’t think that I’m missing out. A lot of people will tell me so every year, but I don’t agree. All the talk of the spirit of christmas and peace on earth and love unto men is pretty much just that – talk. The way we celebrate christmas today has very little to do with anything but commercialism, consumerism and gluttony. And even if we do see a slight increase in man doing good things for others this time of year it still doesn’t make up for the uncaring attitude the rest of the year. It’s not an alibi. When i was little my mother would say “can’t you try to be nice now that it’s christmas?” and I think that statement encapsulates the essence of why I don’t like christmas. I just don’t like the idea that there is this one time of year when we are all supposed to all of a sudden be “nice”. I actually think we should all “try to be nice” the whole year, not just on christmas. Granted, my mothers comment was more about my mood than anything else, but the point still holds true. I don’t think it’s a healthy approach to designate one time of year to be compassionate, giving and caring, it should be an all year endeavor. One might argue that once a year is better than not at all, but I don’t think that holds true. I think we do use this one time of year as an alibi. What would happen if we took that alibi away and applied the message of generosity, caring and compassion in our daily lives instead? If we gave up the christmas gifts and started giving gifts for no reason at all apart from the fact that we actually wanted to give someone something? If we gave up the regulations surrounding our generosity? If we weren’t nice because we had to but because we wanted to? Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but I do think it would make the world a nicer place. If we weren’t so ready to let ourselves be governed by commercialism and traditions maybe we would actually discover that we actually do care about other people at other times than christmas. I suppose it all boils down to freedom of choice and being aware of your actions. Questioning and active choice – why do you celebrate christmas?