Nicholas and I have been discussing secular Christmas a lot. We usually do in Twelfth Month, because it annoys us so much. I have to admit this. We are Plain by nature as well as by leading, I think, and the tacky celebration that Christmas has become is just not to our taste. We aren’t really denying ourselves anything by not participating – we wouldn’t do it anyway. When we had to in our previous life-roles, we weren’t happy about it.
And I think most people aren’t truly happy about it, because it seems so forced and desperate. “We are going to have a good Christmas this year,” someone will say to the family, “and you’re damned well going to like it!” And that’s how the family feels -damned, damned to Christmas Hell for about six weeks.
Oh, I sound Scroogy. I’m not. I am delighted with our Lord, with the great gift of restoration to the full love and life of God. I want to “keep Christmas in my heart all year round.” But Scrooge, once enlightened, keeps Christmas all year by generosity, and love, and genuine kindness. He doesn’t buy tinsel and expensive chocolate, but a turkey for a poor family and medicine for a dying boy. Read A Christmas Carol, not just watch the Muppet version.
I am being blunt here: If we eat more than we need, we are taking food from the mouths of others. Really. We are well-fed, even overfed, and so many in the rest of the world are starving. And please don’t give me a line about how-do-we-get-it-there and political problems. I’m not the national leader. I’m not the United Nations. What are we paying these people for? Get to it, public servants! Serve the public! Go figure it out! If the military can get billions of dollars worth of personnel, equipment and resources to a war in a distant place, then they can bloody well get food, medicine, skilled caregivers and shelter to Africa, India, or wherever it is needed! I am smarter than they think, and I can see through the lies they are telling us.
Because when we put up the party lights and feast, feast, feast, for a month and a half, spending what’s left of our income and credit on useless trinkets, we are dancing on the dying and the dead. We are not keeping Christmas even at Christmas. We are just indulging and pampering.
Why do we need to be placated? Is it just bread and circuses? (For those unfamiliar with that term, it means the government is keeping the populace quiet with cheap, plentiful food and mindless, gory amusements. Think Doritos, Big Gulps, television and video games.) Or is it because we are living lives of quiet desperation, as Henry David Thoreau said?
Time to sober up and settle down. Have I said this before? I will keep saying it, too, until I can no longer draw breath or something radically changes. I expect the radical change will be forced on our culture, rather than be a genuine movement of the heart.
If you are not keeping the fast, start. No meat, fish, eggs. Minimal dairy and fats. No chocolate or treats. Cook everything from scratch, as much as possible. And if you’ve already bought a bunch of useless gifts and ornaments, return them. Give what people need. If they need nothing, then give a charitable gift in their name. Preachers say these things every year, and every year the congregation says, “Yes, you are so right,” and then they charge the Visa up to the sky buying Barbies and sweaters with reindeer patterns.
I am very anti-culture at this time of year. It’s the principal reason for keeping the Advent fast. It is a stand against consumerism and hedonism. It’s why most gifts I give are made by my own hands, at Christmas or at other times. I am literally NOT buying into culture. (But note this: I am not being polemic about this. Our own little household is recently formed, and the others are used to cultural Christmas. I am not forcing this on them. Teach by example.)
My husband, Nicholas, has written an excellent and educational post on the winter solstice and festivities on his blog, “Anglican, Mostly Anabaptist.” (http://fathernicholas.wordpress.com) and you can link from this page.