I know a lot of people just simply hate Christmas. I'm one of them. I know a lot of people tolerate Christmas because it's forced upon us, it's expected, and it's almost impossible to escape. I'm one of them, too.
And I know a lot of people HATE people like me. Whether they actually love Christmas, or just can't admit that they secretly hate it and don't like being reminded of that, a part of the expectation is that we put on a happy face, crank up the Royal Guardsmen, and gird our loins as we muscle our way through The Warehouse checking our list twice and crossing off names as we buy trinkets made by poor little Chinese children who probably don't even know what Christmas is! I wonder, though (if they do do Christmas) do those little Chinese children wake up on Christmas day, open their presents and go "Hey! I made that!"?
Do we all have a traumatic Christmas memory? I do. Which is undoubtedly why I've hated Christmas all my life. I won't bore you with the details, but it's something my seven or eight year old mind has never recovered from, and while I'm able to put it into context now, it's a bit like that lesson that did the Facebook rounds a few weeks ago where the teacher got the children to screw up a piece of paper and then try to flatten it out again. No matter how hard the kids tried or wanted to erase the wrinkles, it wasn't going to happen. Those wrinkles would never disappear, they are the effects of the violence done to the paper. Our minds retain the effects of violence done to it when it's young and impressionable, and those scars we carry for the rest of our lives.
So Christmas has, for me, always had a negative shadow hanging over it. And if you haven't already noticed, I'm a little cynical about most things. So, is it inevitable that I feel a bit grouchy this time of year?
Joshua loves it, of course. He's excited. But it's all about the presents. It is a small source of frustration, or perhaps perplexion (is that a word?) to Jackie that we have not given Josh any religious instruction or even guidance at all. To be fair, I have NO IDEA what to tell him. I can tell him what some people believe; I can tell him what I believe; I can tell him what the many other theories are; but in the end it is, I believe, impossible to tell a seven year old about God and Jesus and the church if your goal is to give him a balanced, healthy view of it all. It may be unfair to some to teach him it's just a myth like Hansel and Gretel or Ben 10; I can't tell him it's the truth about the Universe; and it's impossible to explain to him the intricacies of a very complex belief system, which seems to be the only way to do it justice.
It was easy to teach seven year olds what I once believed (mostly). It's a lot harder to tell Josh about something many people still believe, but I don't.
Anyway, It's all about the presents. As much as we would like "the thought" to count, it seems in many psyches it has nothing to do with the thought, but everything to do with the dollar value. That's either the cause or the effect of the rampant commercialism surrounding Christmas (and other holidays, such as Halloween - New Zealand did not celebrate Halloween until the marketing gurus, profiteers and retail geniuses convinced us it's a cool thing to celebrate).
A few purists still hang on to the quaint idea that making gifts is cute. But it is to my shame that I'm pretty sure Josh would baulk at the thought of getting some recycled paper products and some cool hand-knitted socks for Christmas. And I know there are some very cool ideas for hand-made gifts, but let's be honest. None of them are going to compare with the latest Transformers figurines, Skylanders for Wii or Hogwarts Castle in Lego.
Joshua's Decile 10 school class went to Christ's College to sing carols. We put presents under the tree for "less fortunate children". Why are there "less fortunate children" in the 21st Century? The incongruity of that act (putting those presents under that tree) was probably completely missed by all of the children, and most of the adults (or is that unfair?).
It seems to be a very draining time, Christmas. Perhaps there are emotions running deep that creep to the surface and hold us to ransom, demanding more resources than we have. I tell the older kids every year that we're not doing Christmas this year. Every year we do Christmas.
One of these years we won't.