I’m getting very sentimental this year. Next week, I’m leaving on a jet plane for South Asia (India and Sri Lanka) where I’m spending Christmas with a couple friends instead of my family. It made sense this year. My parents are on a mission, and my (0nly sibling) brother is spending Christmas with his in-laws. I have a friend who lives in the middle east, and is not coming back to America for Christmas, so we’re meeting on the other side of the globe to do some touristy things and celebrate Christmas together. It sounded like a great idea in September. Now I’m getting a little weepy and sentimental. I’m listening to Christmas music every chance I get, spending more time at public celebrations (hello Nutcracker and Santa Lucia at the Swedish Embassy!) and trying to find the perfect presents to put in the mail this week before I go. Trying to deconstruct these feelings is a bit interesting. What am I going to miss? Is it sentimentality over missing my family and the trappings of Christmas, or is it a suspicion that celebrating Christmas in a hotel and on a beach will make the day less special, less focused on the spirituality of the event, and tantamount to skipping the holiday altogether? I’ve blogged before regarding my feelings about the public celebration of Christmas here. http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/12/17/im-a-baby-jesus-fan/ I do think that Christmas is a time when the simplest message of Christianity is celebrated (peace on earth, goodwill toward all, service to others, consciousness of Christian duty.) I think that is fantastic. I don’t think “the holidays” are a war on Christmas. I think they are a democratization of the secret joy of Christianity. Bring on the kitsch.
So I guess the question I’m asking myself this year is whether my spiritual celebration of Christmas will be diminished by the lack of sentimental trappings? Is that a horrible question to ask? Normally I hate the confusion of sentimentality with spirituality. It bothers me that so much church produced material is intended to tug on the tear ducts instead of the conscience. But at this time of year, my feelings change. If hearing a stirring rendition of “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen” on the mall speaker spurs someone towards putting a few coins in the salvation army bowl on the way out, then Hallelujah. If watching Charlie Brown Christmas encourages someone to put a few more cans of vegetables in the food drive box at work, then God Bless us Everyone. If watching a Hallmark Hall of Fame encourages someone to call up their crotchety uncle Joe and tell him “Hey, I love you and miss you” then I think there is probably an angel singing somewhere. I don’t think the trappings create the holiday, but I do think they can help us to be better people at the holidays, and for that, I celebrate the trappings.
So this year I’m going to try and keep my mind on the Christian message that I love: equality, respect, love, peace, and service. I’ll remember baby Jesus, and adult Jesus, and all the things he taught. But just for insurance, I’m tucking in my ipod, full of Christmas songs, some wrapping paper, some chocolate, and few surprises for my friends. As a mere sentimental human, I need all the help I can get.