I really, really don’t like Christmas.
You know… Christmas music that starts up around Halloween, cheesy, garish decorations, obligatory gift exchanges, and the crappy, disposable stocking stuffers that get immediately thrown away. I guess you could say I’m cynical about it, which is definitely not my nature in general.
This year I got a clue as to why…. but first, let’s fill in some history.
I was pretty engaged with Christmas through the 1990’s, until I began walking the priestess path in 1999. When I tuned in to the energy of Yule, the Winter Solstice, and began to realize that the pagan holy days were much older than the Christian holidays, I shifted my focus. One of the things I was delighted to get away from was exchanging gifts.
Giving and receiving… let’s unwrap the elephant in the room!
The whole gift exchange aspect of Christmas is complex and challenging for me. When I was younger and did engage in traditional Christmas, I always wanted to create homemade gifts or give something that I already possessed and wanted to pass on. But that’s really not how it’s supposed to be done, right? It’s mostly about BUYING STUFF. I’m also uncomfortable with the sense of obligation around gifting. I know (in my head) we are hardwired to reciprocate. I know (in my head) it’s okay to simply receive. And there’s that thing about a “tradition” that is mindlessly repeated, even when people are already strapped for cash and in debt. To add even more complexity, receiving gifts is not one of my love languages… in fact, it’s at the bottom of my love language list.
Giving stuff that’s not actually stuff
When I give a gift, I want it to be from my heart and because I have chosen to give it, not because a custom or tradition dictates it. Gifts can take many forms, and I most enjoy giving the intangible or consumable kind. I love to gift through cooking and serving food, passing on something that I no longer need but someone else will cherish, and as an introvert, giving my time and presence as a gift.
I’ve been making and giving handmade Christmas gifts for most of my life. Consumable gifts resonate with me and don’t contribute to either the consumerism of shopping or the endless piles of “stuff” that most people already have. I would much rather make things than buy things… culinary kits, candles, and back in the day, massage oils and bath oils. They usually have less monetary value than the purchased gifts, and that feels weird sometimes… but I just keep letting that go.
Christmas in the tropics
Living on Maui for many years supported me in being with the holiday season in the way I really wanted to… quietly and inwardly. Then, Apollo came into my life. His family is small and close, and Christmas is an important family holiday to them. Christmas came back into my life, and while I wasn’t thrilled about it, I was willing. So, I’ve been drawn back into the gift exchange thing for the past ten years. *sigh*
Christmas in the frozen north
At first, I was willing to travel to Minnesota every year for either Christmas or Thanksgiving, but that quickly became unsustainable for me. I finally agreed to visit MN for the holidays every 2nd or 3rd year, and I send Apollo off without me on the years I stay home. This year (2019) was my year to go. I made rolled beeswax candles for gifts (which I feel obligated to give, because I am being given gifts), knowing they are not of equal value. Even on the years I don’t go, I still receive gifts, so I send along the candles. Last year, I begged to not be given more “stuff,” because we had just moved twice in 2 months, and I was already inundated with boxes of stuff and could not bear to receive more. I pleaded to be given small-denomination gift cards.
It’s December 23rd, we’ve been staying with my in-laws for 5 days, and we’ve got 3 days to go until we leave. I’ve been feeling steadily more depressed and uninspired every day. Yesterday, I could feel a really upset little girl inside me. She was mad, and sad, and heading toward a tantrum. I was on the verge of tears all morning, felt abandoned when Apollo left the room, and realized something was up. While the parents were at church, I took advantage of the quiet time to tune in.
Trashing the ornaments
As I sit and close my eyes, I see my inner little girl sitting on the living room floor throwing Christmas ornaments to break them. I HATE CHRISTMAS! I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE! she screams. Rather than “blend” (merge) with her, I do my best to maintain my adult separation so I can support her. Then I let myself blend for a bit and feel her feelings and cry her tears. I separate again and let her know I’m there to support her. What do you need, Little One? She shows me scenes of a childhood Christmas, a very specific one. It’s in the house where I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. I’ve never associated any specific memories of my abuse with Christmas. But this is a very interesting and mysterious clue.
But… I’ve been clear of this for YEARS!
I’m pretty surprised by this piece of information. What the hell happened to that little girl around Christmas? I have been clear of my abuse stuff for a very long time. I don’t have PTSD symptoms or missing memories or any of that. Until now? I’m reminded of the spiral nature of evolution. Something is being revealed, something that’s never come up before, and it’s inviting me to question if there’s something about Christmas that got so deeply buried that it hasn’t been recovered yet. What I do know is that I want nothing to do with Christmas. Ever. And yet, I grimly do the bare minimum and show up with the best attitude I can muster and paste on a smile and say thank you for the gifts.
Post Christmas follow up: this is not about my childhood. This is about me not listening to myself and doing something out of a sense of obligation, subjugating my own needs. It doesn’t work anymore.
The Wheel of Consent
As I was revisiting the Wheel of Consent for my Certification students, I had an insight. By being with my husband’s family for Christmas, I’m giving a gift of my presence. I have consented to be here, I have not been forced, and I’ve agreed to participate in this for the sake of Apollo and his family, who are WONDERFUL people. Which means that I would like to show up in the best way I can. This is a deeper layer on the Wheel of Consent, where I am in the giving role by being in a situation I don’t want to be in as a contribution to others I care about.
We head home on the 26th. I’ll have a few days to integrate and explore this revelation a bit more once home. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my inner child as comforted and held as I can. She gets to feel what she feels and attend to whatever needs she can express. I do all this “on the fly,” which means I’m not dedicating specific time to it. I keep it in my awareness all the time. This is a potent form of shadow work. If I let that little one’s feelings run the show, if I was blended with her, I would not be able to see her, I would BE her. Instead, I would like to find a way to integrate her into the whole.
I’m feeling a lot of empathy for people who don’t like Christmas, for whatever reason. It just seems like such a sham to me, as Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th… according to the Bible, He was born in the Spring. More about that here.
Next holiday season, Goddess willing, I will get to be home to honor the Solstice and the deep, dark quiet of Yule. For now, I’m grateful for the opportunity to process and integrate through the written word and being witnessed by people I care about. That’s you, Dear Reader. Thank you for taking it all in.
Please share in the comments if there are aspects of the holiday season that that are not all happy-happy-joy-joy.
Blessed be, Amrita