It’s not about the date. Or the presents. Or the food. Or the traditions. So then, what is this “day” we call Christmas all about? That’s the question I’m trying to answer as my family and I are celebrating “Christmas” on December 3rd this year. Having been raised Catholic, I am familiar with the religious origins of this celebration but as a naturalist Quaker Buddhist, not much of that origin resonates with me now. So what does?
The lights? Gathering together? Gifts? Carols? The Tree? Snow? e) All of the above…is probably my best answer at the moment. It’s about taking pause to come together and do some things that evoke special memories and as a result, special feelings. It’s about gathering in the darkest time of the year to share food and celebration, to look forward the return of the light, and to share generously on both material and spiritual levels.
It’s the smell of pork chops and sauerkraut roasting the day away. It’s the mound of brightly coloured packages that represent our best thinking and sharing with each other. It’s Oma bouncing Xander on her knee. It’s Rayne excitedly showing off the latest addition to her mermaid collection. It’s giving thanks and prayer that we are once again gathered together. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not it’s December 24 (we traditionally celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve) or December 3, the feelings of excitement and anticipation are the same.
I’ve celebrated Christmas at 5800 metres on Aconcagua, at sea level in South Africa, in the Grand Canyon in Arizona, at home and away. When I look for the common denominators of all of these celebrations, I can rule out the snow. I can rule out the food. Same goes for the presents. What I can’t rule out is the special sense of togetherness that comes from pausing to recognize and celebrate. No matter what the origin of the holiday or celebration, for me what now makes it special, is who I share it with, not how or when.