By LYNDON ZAITZ
We’re in that traditional transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas and other December holidays. On the fourth Thursday of November, many of us gather around a dinner table and solemnly say what we are personally thankful for: good health, a job, a family, the new Taylor Swift CD and so forth.
Then, on the day after, Black Friday and onward through Dec. 24, the focus is on what we want, not what we have. Wish lists are written and rewritten. Our Christmas would be great if only someone would give us the newest widget or the shiniest whatsat.
How fast we move from thankfulness to gimme. But that’s how the holidays work. We can hold a number of different thoughts at the same time, it’s emotional potpourri. We’re giddy, we’re happy, we’re depressed, we’re blue, we’re envious, we’re romantic. In short, the holidays bring out everything that makes us humans.
What we accept in children (holding an endless list of presents they want from Santa Claus) we might find a bit unseemly in adults. Christmas loses its element of surprise when we tell what we want for a present. As many say, better to receive something you want than something you have to return.
I have never returned a gift I have been given, except to exchange for a correct size. I don’t view a gift as a commodity, to be traded for something else. When someone offers me a gift I accept it in the spirit in which it was given. I fit that gift into my life and that’s that.
Christmas and I have had a complicated relationship for years. No one loves the traditions of the season more than I. Caroling through a neighborhood (sans figgy puddy)? Check? See a performance of Handel’s Messiah? Absolutely. Enjoy the bustle of the crowds? Sure.
It is the tradition of gifts that is complicated for me. Why am I receiving a gift? What have I done to deserve a gift? Religions, tribes and nationalities exchange gifts to celebrate, be it the birth of Jesus Christ, a good harvest or the sun. By not having a religious upbringing, I have no connection to Christmas Mass or other church services.
The funny thing is, I enjoy nothing so much as spending a day shopping for friends and family. Each year I decide on a wrapping theme and each gift I give is wrapped similiarly.
In the past I was diligent about sending Christmas cards. I would find the box of cards that reflected me perfectly, I’d write a personal note in each and mail them off. It’s a tradition that is fading as many use social media rather than cards. Time marches on; things can’t always remain the same. But assuring some things stay the same is called tradition. The traditions that we maintain in our lives are generally those we lived with as children. What happened in our homes when we are kids become the traditions as adults.
This week millions of Americans dined at two or more homes for Thanksgiving—more for those with large blended families. That’s a lot of eating and a lot of traveling, but it’s tradition. The Thanksgivings I have enjoyed included the traditional dinner at home with the whole family, then dinner with friends and eventually dinner at a restaurant. My traditions are a little more fluid than most.
The best thing is that in America people can do what they want. They can shop in stores or on line, they can decorate their homes in October for Christmas, they can travel to many different houses for holiday meals. People can celebrate in their own way according to their beliefs and traditions. They can call the holiday Christmas or they can be sensitive and just call it the holidays. The best tradition would be of tolerance, respect and dignity. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, but that is no reason for anybody to stop others from saying and celebrating the day. Forcing others to take Christmas out of the holiday is not political correctness, it is domestic shaming and it should not be tolerated. December 25 is Christmas; it can’t be changed anymore than Tuesday can be changed to Ewokday.
Forcing anyone to celebrate what they culturally do not celebrate is just as frustrating and useless. The holidays, in all their glory, mean many things to many peoples and cultures. The enjoyment and the marking of our holidays should never be changed or altered due to the beliefs of others. Tolerance and respect should always be part of our traditions in regards to others.
I am ready to transition to the holidays and all that it offers: crowds, carols, cooking and Champagne.
(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher and editor of the Keizertimes.)