How I Gave Up Christmas and Found Serenity


Published:

© mararie, courtesy Flickr

Editor's note: AlterNet first published this article in 2010. This version is updated.

I can't remember exactly when it was that I gave up Christmas, but I've never regretted it. While my friends and family run around in a frenzy of mall purchases and the attendant anxiety of how to pay for it all, I bask in the serenity of having let it all go -- well, most of it.

It seemed to happen in stages. One year, I asked my brothers that they stop buying gifts for me and to forgive me for not buying gifts for them. It took a while for that to take. One brother refused to buy into the pact. Another has a wife from a non-Western country who, in dealing with her in-laws, expresses her love by thoroughly embracing the traditions of her new homeland. But, as time went on, everybody seemed to accept, however grudgingly, that I was not taking part.

Eventually, I stopped making the 300-mile trek to go home for Christmas. I made a point of getting there every Thanksgiving instead, a holiday for which the company of family is its own reward, and love is shown through the preparation and sharing of food. Sometimes we even pull out the guitars and make bad music together, passing out rhythm instruments to the kids.

Christmas, on the other hand, held such expectations of material splendor that it was impossible to have any quality time with my nieces and nephews, wound up as they were on the highs of the day, with their exhausted parents busy trying to police the pandemonium. And so, one year, I decided to stay home and cook myself a duck. I could have gone to the families of friends nearby, but that would have been just another permutation of what I had escaped, so I opted for solitude. It was delicious -- both the duck and the solitude.

On Christmas, the phone doesn't ring, except for the occasional well-wisher. The streets are quiet, and no one expects you to check your e-mail. If you've ever wished for a moment of silence, of peace, of space to contemplate the abundance of life, spend a Christmas alone, and your wish will be granted.

Now, I'm not anti-Christmas. I love the decorations, the special foods, and some of the seasonal music. I'm not religious in the traditional sense, but Christmas Eve often finds me in church, hearing friends sing in choirs, or play liturgical music. I love the Christmas story: the notion of the redemption of the world through the birth of a child is breathtakingly beautiful. And so I come back to that.

My solitude rarely lasts a whole day: it lasts just as long as I need it to. Friends drop by on their way home from their Christmas feasts. Or I decide to do something non-Christmas-y for a few hours, as I did one year when I joined a Jewish friend for Chinese food and a movie with his little boy.

Christmas existed before there were Christians. Nearly every culture celebrates the winter solstice, and the Western traditions of Christmas trees, mistletoe, Yule logs -- all that -- are the vestiges of European paganism. I've never made a pilgrimage to Stonehenge, nor do I belong to a coven, but I feel those ancient forms in my bones. The practice of lighting fires and bringing nature indoors at the darkest time of the year just makes a lot of sense. It's how we get through, reminding ourselves that all is not dead and lost to us, that the sun will reappear.

But solstice was not a time of travel; it was a time to hibernate, to mediate, to contemplate the mysteries of nature with those in our immediate circle. And so, I stay put.

Throwing a holiday party? Sure, I'll come -- but only if it's in my neighborhood, or not more than a subway stop or so away. My house is open to friends passing through. The decorations are simple: an edging of tiny white lights around the window, a few pine boughs on the window ledge.

As the solstice approached in 2010, the full moon was covered in the veil of the sun's shadow -- the first full lunar eclipse to occur at solstice in hundreds of years. Had I spent that at the mall, or packing for a trip home, I would have missed it. Instead, I got to marvel at the spectacular sight.

My family's Christmas has survived quite nicely without me. My nieces and nephews know I love them, and they get little presents from me at other times in the year. My parents have accepted my choice, even though they'd rather I was with them. And me, I feel a little less guilty each year for seizing my moment of peace, knowing I'm a far more pleasant person for it than I could ever be if caught in the Christmas frenzy.

I understand that, if you have small children, opting out of Christmas may not seem a good choice (unless, of course, you adhere to a non-Christian religious tradition). But we can all simplify our traditions and distill our expectations to their essence: a time of joy and peace.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. She co-edited, with Don Hazen, the AlterNet book, Dangerous Brew: Exposing the Tea Party's Agenda to Take Over America. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan. Send tips to: adele@alternet.org

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

February 20, 2020

The first third of today is dominated by the union of the Capricorn Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. These planets have not all been gathered in the Sign of the Goat since 1284, seven hundred and thirty-six years ago! Indeed, we are now granted an…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

February 2020

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

January 19th, February 16th, March 8th by appointment only. Kinetic Chain Release (KCR) to balance body, resolve leg length discrepancies, reduce back, shoulder, knee, hip pain and reduce stress...

Cost: $65 to $145

Where:
Leapin' Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME  04101
View map »


Sponsor: Leapin' Lizards
Telephone: 207-221-2363
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Anna DeWitte Mondays—starts 1/27 Our next new class! Join Anna (one of our recent grads) for her mild heat class! The temperature will hover around 80 degrees which helps to loosen...

Cost: $17

Where:
State of Grace Yoga & Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Sponsor: State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Discover Beauty. Discover Goodness. Discover Yourself. Your soul’s gifts are waiting. Breathe. Find stillness. The spark you need to ignite your life is here, within. Max Meditation...

Cost: $15

Where:
Modern Mystery School Boston
132 Charles St
3rd Floor
Auburndale, MA  02466
View map »


Sponsor: Modern Mystery School Boston
Telephone: 617-694-0994
Contact Name: Jordan Bain
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Automatic & Channel Writing — Class 1 of 3 Discussion of channel writing and then spending the rest of the class practicing writing. Getting comfortable writing either with paper and...

Cost: At door $20; online reg. $15

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In celebration of Pediatric Dentistry Month and recognizing children’s oral health as a foundation for life-long health, join us for a free, fun and informational evening about how holistic...

Cost: Free

Where:
The BioMed Center New England
111 Chestnut Street
Ste 1
Providence, RI  02903
View map »


Sponsor: The BioMed Center New England
Telephone: 833-8BIOMED
Contact Name: Admin Desk
Website »

More information

Free Workshop: What happens to the marital home in divorce? Join us for this timely seminar led by Attorney Beth Aarons, Realtor Sky Minckler, and Mortgage Consultant Craig Tashjian as they...

Cost: Free

Where:
Skylark Law & Mediation, PC
9 Main Street
Southborough, MA  01772
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Are you considering, going through or recovering from divorce? Join us at our FREE Daytime Divorce Boot Camp, and we’ll help you get into shape! In response to requests from people who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation
180 Wells Avenue
Suite 300
Newton, MA  02459
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.” —Krishnamacharya Join us for an evening of deep exploration and transformation using the...

Cost: $40

Where:
Friends Meeting House
5 Longfellow Park
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Sponsor: Allen Howell, M.Ed. LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

February 22nd & 23rd Deepen your knowledge and practice of Reiki. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (Master-Teacher) This two-day Level II Training enhances...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Get a personal teaching for Brother Granite's new Visionary Shamanism Tarot. This class includes the new Visionary Shamanism Tarot deck as well a 90 minute one on one class with Brother Granite...

Cost: $80

Where:
407 Deans Plaza
407 Rte 44
The Enchanted Forest Taunton
Raynham, MA  02767
View map »


Sponsor: Brother Granite
Telephone: 774-208-6195
Contact Name: Granite
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags