Friday, May 18, 2007

me and christmas

A special thanks to Janice for stopping by my open forum. Her question for me was to ask me if I celebrate Christmas.

When I was growing up, even all through highschool and college, Christmas was always a very special time for me for a variety of reasons.

Making and eating special christmas-time-only candy treats. [ohhhh, pausing to drooooooool over the memories of all those yummy holiday goodies.!] Let's see "christmas wreaths", "christmas fudge", "christmas mints", "homemade salted nut rolls", "frosted christmas cookies", egg nog. Oooooooh I want it to be December right now!!!!

Putting up all the decorations, candles, holly greens, the tree, the nativity scene. Mom's angel collection. Putting up mom's collection of houses. I LOVE Christmas decorations.

Driving around looking at Christmas lights on people's houses and yards.

Listening to lots of christmas music tapes and then cds. I LOVE christmas music. Sometimes during the summer when I'd get sick of the heat I'd bring out my christmas music to remind me of the snow. Yeah! I HATE the heat. LOVE winter.

Going to the candle light christmas-eve service. Lots of carol singing. No sermon. Holding the candles in the dark.

Playing my flute with my mom while my sister played the piano up at the nursing home where Mom works.

Doing a nightly advent wreath for a good chunk of my child hood, where we'd all gather round the "wreath" light a candle and read a story, sing a song, say a prayer. It kind of petered out during highschool because we got too busy, not enough people home at 1 time.

And of course the excitement of Santa coming on christmas morning and all the presents he'd bring. How hard it was to sleep the night before. Getting up to tip toe through the house and take a peek. Even when we found out that Mom and Dad were Santa, we still got santa presents until I was about 26. Mom and Dad just loved giving us lots of presents.

When I became an atheist, christmas became different. There didn't seem to be a lot of point. And I felt really bad about it. I still miss it. I miss that special feeling that christmas engendered. That inner quiet beauty, sense of light, wonder. Awe that a supernatural being came to earth as a baby because he loved me.

I look back on the list of things I really liked about christmas and a lot of them don't have to be religious. They could be secular. But now that I no longer believe there is a deity...well... it seems like a lot of effort to go through for nothing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've "lost the meaning of Christmas". I still listen to the music, still give my kids presents, but the joy of the season is definitely missing.

So- do I celebrate christmas? Only sort of. I still go through the motions and even hit most of the items on the list- except for the daily advent. But it no longer "feels" the same.


janice said...

Thank you for such a great answer.
Your memories make me want to start baking, UMMM!

We recently moved and I found my Christmas decorations today. After looking at some of my "favorite things," they were finally stowed in their new place (the attic).

Your childhood sounds a lot like mine, (sounds like a former Catholic?)

I also HATE the heat and LOVE the snow and winter time. I played the clarinet, for many years and many years ago.

Christmas music is my favorite, I too find myself popping in a CD of Christmas oldies in July. Christmas Crooners, Bing, Perry Como, Ella, and my all time favorite (and I share a birthday with him) the king Elvis. I love The Boston Pops playing "Sleigh Ride," but Johnny Mathis does a great rendition as well.

Your articulation of celebrating the holiday without the "holy" feelings was conveyed honestly and heartfelt. I hope, as we move towards December, you can elaborate further on the the meaning of Christmas (and maybe the meaning of Easter) for you now.

Thanks again for your open and honest response. I'm adding you to my favorites so I can check back. Thanks again for the forum.

Fiery Ewok said...

Your childhood sounds a lot like mine, (sounds like a former Catholic?) :-D Close, former Lutheran. Same amount of guilt, just no popes and no saints. oh. And a yearly church sponsored Lutefisk dinner (gag) I can still see it quivering on the plates.

I played the clarinet, for many years and many years ago.

When I was a music education major in college I learned the clarinet as part of Woodwind Methods class and ended up loving it. Even played clarinet in the University Band (the "lesser band") and thoroughly loved it.

Unfortunately I was using my sister's clarinet and when she found out, demanded it back. It was fun while it lasted though!

I totally love the Boston Pops and think John Williams was a Master composer/conductor. WOW he does great music. I must have 8-10 of their cds. :-D

And the christmas oldies....yeah, they're good. Christmas doesn't begin for me until Tony Bennet sings.... wait I have to go check the cd for which title it is...

Oh good grief. The cd wasn't with the other christmas cd's do you know why? It's still on my kitchen counter!!!! :-D BWHAHAHAHA. Anyway it is his Snowfall christmas cd. Followed immediately by Gary Morris (he sang Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables, the Complete Symphonic and his christmas album BOGGLES the mind beautiful) Julie Andrews, Harry Connick, Jr., Frank Sinatra and the other crooners. LOVE 'EM!!!

Wow. Whole lot of love in this post. ;-D

thanks much for stopping by! And I love the questions. Gives my blabbing er...blogging focus. :-D

Jacob said...

I celebrate Christmas. I don't see anything hypocritical about celebrating the birthday of a guy who probably didn't exist. It's what makes being non-religious so liberating; you can take all the joy of the event (getting together with family, pretty lights, setting up trees in your house, getting loads of stuff) without having to pretend that it's all for the sake of some imagined deity.

janice said...

Ah, the guilt, yes I know about guilt. Came from a Catholic father, a Jewish mother and married an Italian, you wanna talk about guilt, oy! Raised Catholic and became a Messianic Jew. Double oy!

Loved Les Miserables! My cousin took me on a day trip to NY to see it as a B-day present. Ahhh, the snowfall in New York city, if only for the few hours I was there, simply awesome.

The lesser band, I was third chair then recruited for the jazz band where I flourished and learned to love music and how it influenced (or evolved into) everything coming after it.
Also loved marching during halftime, in the winter of course, with the snow. Hated the wool uniforms, learned to order them one size larger so I could wear long johns under them.

The oldies have to include Tony Bennet (singing Winter Wonderland), and let's not forget Andy Williams, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, Bobby Helms and Brenda Lee doing a little Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. I love all Christmas music, all the time.

It's nice getting to know a little about you, thanks.

Fiery Ewok said...

My mate and I got a chance to go see Les Mis in Minneapolis. OMG it was SO fantastic. Those opening chords started and it was like a religious experience. I was so completely overwhelmed. I was bouncing in my chair like a 3 year old. I'm sure the couple behind me thought I was whacked. It was an unforgettable experience!!!!!

We own the Complete Symphonic Recording and I love listening to it. Only problem is the dang songs get stuck in my head for MONTHS afterwards. ARGH!!!!
"Do you hear the people sing?" You're darn tootin' I do. Every day for the next 6 weeks!!!!!!


I have no idea what a Messianic Jew is. *blush* must google it.

University Band was really fun. It was me and another guy (trumpet player) from woodwind methods and one of our songs called for the clarinets to stand up and play kazoos. What a riot. I wish we'd had more encouragement from the director not to chicken out. I got kind of shy and it didn't go off as well as it could.

One thing on any performance. You have to go for it 100% or the audience will be so busy wincing for you that they won't be able to enjoy your less-than-dedicated performance.

janice said...

My cousin gave the tapes along with the play book, before we attended the show, so I could know the songs and understand a little about the story. He played piano, and could recite every score. He passed away 12 years ago this month (from AIDS). Talking about music and Les Mis bring wonderful memories of him, I miss him so.

Yes, one misstep in your performance will overshadow everything.

Messianic Jew, (in a nutshell) I believe Christ is the Messiah and don't eat pork. LOL

Fiery Ewok said...

I studied up before I went to the performance as well. I grew up with the cassette tape version of the London cast recording, which doesn't have all the songs. So I listened for about a week to the Comp.Symph. so I wouldn't be straining for words but could enjoy the spectacle.

It was one of the greatest evenings in my life!

Losing someone you care about is hard. I once read that grief sits on your shoulder, and while it never leaves you, the weight of it does lessen over time.

Sean the Blogonaut said...

When I found out that a certain Jolly Fat fellow wasn't R E A L. It was really disaponting.

That is the feeling I miss, the magical aspect, but then we grow up and the thing a love about Christmas is the concentration of family, the good will and the celebration of life. Is it hypocritical to celebrate? I don't think so the pagan's had the holiday first.

BigTex71 said...

Is it hypocritical to celebrate? I don't think so the pagan's had the holiday first.

You are so right. But most Christians will deny this (at least those in my family.)

I always love Christmastime, even now as an atheist. Sean brought up a good point about the Pagans holiday. Ask any Christian where Santa fits into the whole Christ's birthday and see what they say. The Catholic church put the birth of Christ on the Pagan holiday to try to take away from the Paganistic monopoly on the winter solstice holiday (if I remember correctly) and try to get more followers.

Christmastime to me was always about family, great music, great holiday spirit, toys and gifts, and just an overall wonderful time of year. It always will be, too. I just don't consider it to be Christ's birthday (which is isn't anyway... many claim it to be in spring.)

I also liken my coming to terms with atheism similar to when I found out that Santa was not real. It was a great fictional character who kept the kids behaving and gave rewards for good deeds. Just like the God/Jesus myth... keeping the people behaving and giving rewards (heaven, eternal life) for good deeds.

BigTex71 said...

On a side note- I, too, was in band. I was a percussionist and was in the marching band and jazz band. Ahhh...good times!

janice said...

BigTex, did you itch from the wool? I mean, did you order your wool uniforms to fit or just a tad larger so you could wear something under it? I can't find a lot of folks who've done it or thought of doing it.

Have a great day!

BigTex71 said...

BigTex, did you itch from the wool?

Our uniforms were not wool. I grew up in Texas, so wool would have been way too hot. I don't recall what material it was made from, but I know it was not wool.

Fiery Ewok said...

I marched one season with North Dakota State University Gold Star Marching Band. Isn't THAT an obnoxious mouthfull! We had some weird poly-blend heavy HEAVY uniforms and they recommend you get them a size large so you can wear stuff underneath.

Our first game it was 85*F in the sun and I could feel sweat literally dripping down my spine while we were lined up to go INTO the stadium. That was hot.

By 3 games later, we were marching in 32*F weather and omg it was sooooo cold. It didn't matter how many layers you had on because the metal bleachers we sat on were FROZEN. Oh it was cold.

The worst though was practicing outside in cold temps. We got to complaining so bad this one time, that the conductor, to prove he could take it better than we could, stripped off his winter coat, rolled up his shirt sleeves and directed that way.

We were all really unimpressed and hoped he would freeze his nay-nay's off in the process.

WOW was that cold. Brrrrrrr.