Growing up in Roanoke the first five years of my life, my family did no holiday making at this time of year. This was because my father, non-religious (i.e., atheist) was very bah! humbug! No Christmas tree, no gifts, no nothing except he did get the day off from work.
My mother didn’t like this. She was Christian and from a large Glenvar family (she the baby of 14 children) who, though poor, did Christmas with gusto. Didn’t matter if her family had little or nothing, they’d gather multiple times each December to share food, song (they loved harmonizing!) and joke-filled story-telling. Thinking back on it all, it’s clear that my mother’s family understood one another to be great gift.
My father ended up being moved to “accept Jesus” as his savior because of my mother’s family’s good energies. And with this conversion he had, we got Christmas! I remember with sharp detail our first family tree and the bicycle I got, over in our little house on Mountain View Terrace. It was great!
Over the lifetime that’s followed, I’ve had winter holiday seasons that were full of much merry-making and winter holiday seasons that were almost completely lacking of any festivity. In the two Decembers following my coming-out as a gay man, I spent the holidays alone, shut out from family that was struggling to accept my truth. I remember the first of those two Decembers well, particularly when I awoke alone on Christmas for the first time in my life, knowing that I had no plan to be with anyone for the day. I was tearful at times, feeling great pity for myself. But I was also fortunate in that the very family that was shutting me out had taught me two practices that served me well in my aloneness. One was to get up and move when feeling down – I spent hours that Christmas Day walking the streets of Lancaster, PA, through blowing snow showers. The other was that it’s important to do for yourself at Christmas just as you do for others – I made myself a holiday meal, bought myself a present, and sang Christmas carols alone. It was poignant work that, though fraught with tears, strengthened me. I know now that Christmas will always be good and precious for me no matter my life circumstance.
My hope for each of you, and all the good peoples with whom we share in life, is that the holidays, whichever they might be, will have about them practices that make for “holiness” no matter what. Holiness is that which makes whole. And more good. And more joyful.
I am so thankful for the gift of each of you in my life.
Wishing you the holiest of holidays!
Much heart, RevAlex