Friday, December 24, 2004

In between making food and pretty packages

I am not Christian in the literal sense, though many if not most of the teachings of Jesus are incorporated into my personal philosophy. My family, even my extended family, is of many spiritual and religious beliefs- with no single one in the majority. But we celebrate on or around December 25th by gathering with family. With family stretched from coast to coast in at least seven different states, we never see everyone in any given year. We make a few donations, exchange a few gifts, gather with family in one location and spend time on the telephone with those far away.

This holiday has meant the three of us together for as long as we have been three, but this year my son and husband will be with part of the family on the East Coast. They are leaving very early on Christmas day and I will stay in California. Selfishly, I am full of conflicting emotions about that, including some remaining sense of disbelief about the way it was all arranged. It is difficult not to ascribe several different layers of less than charitable intent and meaning to the various players in how this came about, but I am trying to simply accept what will not now be changed. A touch of nostalgia has me remembering bits and pieces of the celebrations over the past twenty-one years and attempting to reflect on why it all matters to me- the holiday and the gathering of family.

One of the smaller pieces of this reflection is below.

When my son was young, Santa Claus came in the middle of the night to deliver some of the presents. And though he is older, Santa still brings some of the gifts- with a wink and a smile, of course. As he grew older (but still in elementary school) we had many discussions about the meanings of Christmas and other holidays of this season. I explained to him that various religions have an end of the year tradition of some sort, close to the winter solstice. Each year for many years I would help him discover one or two of either the customs or meanings behind various different celebrations. He doesn't remember many, but he does remember that there are many reasons and ways of celebrating. It is enough I think, that I helped him see a larger world view and inoculate him against the commercialism that surrounds this time of year. More importantly perhaps, is his understanding that tolerance, generosity and kindness are not limited to only one season.

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