26 December 2007

Holiday Ponderings

Who would of thought that a full week of doing absolutely nothing could be so rewarding? Over the recent years I've come to figure out myself, my philosophy and my place in the world more and more. I am at such a point now that I feel I can cope with and conquer anything that life has in store, truly something comforting in a world that appears as dismal as it does to me at time. Nonetheless, this holiday season has caused me some mental unrest. I have been uncomfortable saying "Merry Christmas" and as I am surrounded by a largely Catholic family this produces some awkward moments. I've been bombarded by multitudes of messages: "traditional" Christmas, alternate holidays, consumerism, hope, despair, family, secular Christmas. Here is a time of year when for weeks the world over is almost completely engulfed in preparation and consideration of a Christian holiday (which is perhaps just derivative of more ancient Pagan celebrations of the winter solstice) that is celebrated in a true capitalist style that drains nearly every last drop of reverence from the celebration. What is a Humanihilsocialist to do?

I found myself celebrating what can be considered a secular Christmas, that is, gift-giving and receiving largely spurred by consumerist urges and family ritual derived from Christian associations. I was truly, and oddly, uncomfortable with this. Why is it that I am hesitant and uncomfortable with associating language and reciprocity with Christian ideas? Yet, at the same time I won a war this year, a war I've been fighting for nearly 10 years, the war with my mother over church. For the first year she didn't make me attend Christmas Eve mass. Having already escaped the Easter required mass due to school I think I can finally say that my association with Catholicism, Christianity and religion has finally been severed. Any lack of comfort with this situation is due almost totally to obligations I have to my mother and the sad thought of her attending mass alone with no successful, world-traveling son to sport on her arm.

Christmas has certainly changed for me, indeed I shun that word. For the first year I've used Holidays and holiday season to reciprocate wishes of merry Christmas. The holidays have, for me, become more a session of guilt than anything. I come along for the Christmas celebrations of my family and partake in ruthless consumerism, two aspects of US life that my opposition to is the cornerstone of my college-angsty identity. I think, to a large extent (hopefully without becoming too high-and-mighty) once we look through the bullshit, Christmas isn't all it's hyped up to be. This is perhaps one reason for my odd feelings this season. Then again, perhaps my position of perspective, refusal to accept hegemony and best attempts to live a life of total reflexivity has finally caught up with me. Maybe I found myself, as a result of analysis, questioning and separation, alone, for the first time unable to connect with my family in the ways that I used to. Have I taken it too far? Here I have come to questions I cannot fully answer, maybe in the Holidays to come.

Sacrifices are a part of life, are they not? Perhaps making my mother and grandmothers and aunt happy is enough cause to become a hypocrite, if only for a few weeks.

Try this on for size. What if my analysis and questions above are as much bullshit as the consumerism and questionable Christianity? What if, to truly see through the bullshit, we must look further, through the opposition and criticisms of Christmas. In the end, spoken like a true humanist, it comes down to people and the human condition. Family, celebrations of new beginings, giving the best gift and receiving the perfect thought, culminations of long years and a chance for people to see their religion crest in ritual resplendence, these create undeniable happiness for many. Even for those who suffer the full onslaught and domination of capitalism and consumerism, there is the "true" holiday spirit of love and closeness and religion that makes the world bearable for at least one day.

My jury is still not in on Christmas. I leave this entry perhaps more confused than when I left. Its probably a good thing, a mental exercise for these remaining days of my winter break. Ah, the holidays!

1 comment:

Lesley said...

We will continue this discussion upon return to the BU...though my own submissions aren't so concrete at the moment. I will say, however, that I also won the battle of sorts over Christmas Eve church services. As my family and future brother in-law toddled off to the candlelight service, I wrapped final presents and straightened up the kitchen. And it was good.

Be well!