Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like…

Christmas always comes as a surprise to me.

Probably because the year is always roaring, kind of like a fire or train or truck or runaway ball in an Indiana Jones movie—it's hard to keep up with time and how quickly it passes. Sometimes you're so busy moving, keeping ahead of the Busy, you don't think of anything but just Getting Through. Or maybe, you're so happily running alongside that train, watching the fire, dancing on that ball, that you just don't notice time doing its thing, moving right along.

And now, it's 4 days until Christmas and, wait… how did that happen?

Christmas…the massive holiday that businesses and advertisers plan for, for months, the one that brings in money for shops big and small, the one that involves a lot of buying and thinking about giving… the holiday where everyone wants you to be Happy! Everyone's wishing you a Merry one, in the shops, at the end of term classes, over the phone to each other, strangers and friends alike. It's this thing we're all united by, and stressed out by, and maybe a bit confused about, sometimes. It's like the word that doesn't look weird until you write it a dozen times.

Christmas. What's it about?

What are we getting "ready" for?

Why do we cherish it?

Who says we should even celebrate it?

I'm getting these questions from my kids; I'm thinking them myself.

My family and I live outside the box in so many ways. So why do we "Do" Christmas?

I think the reason so many of us "Do" it, is because that's how it's always been, at least in my collective, European/Australian/American culture. Millions and millions of us join the hustle, do the bustle. We get the presents, make the food, prepare the parties, play the music, decorate. We fret, we argue, we spend. We sit together one day a year beside a tree that people say we should get, opening presents people say we should buy, scarfing down food people say we should eat. We do it, often joyfully, often begrudgingly, often stressfully, often lovingly.

And then we do it all over again the next year.


Well, it can be fun. Like, a lot of fun.

Stockings alone. I mean, stockings rock. Seeing that great lumpy thing at the end of your bed at dawn—I'll never forget how excited I used to be. What's not to love about a giant sock full of stuff? The crackle of the paper as you open the tiny Thing and then the next tiny Thing and the next? Sharing what you've found with your brother, your sister, your parents. So much smiling! Then the presents under the tree. The pile of them, literally singing to you, wanting you to shake them, hold them, open them, hug the person who gave them to you. And the giving. Well, that's pretty awesome too. Seeing the look of delight on peoples' faces when they've unwrapped just the thing they wanted. That moment can be so lovely.

Being together is beautiful too. Families often rock. There's all that love, for one. Then there's the hugging, the laughter, the shared history. The smiling, and of course all the singing. Those Christmas songs! Something about them, it just makes you want to do something jolly, doesn't it? Right there, on the spot.

And of course—and for many this comes top of the list of why we "Do" Christmas—well, there's Jesus. For millions of people, this day is a celebration of a life devoted to bringing people to God. I'm not religious…but at the same time I am not not religious, if that makes any sense. I'd call myself spiritual, a person of faith, but I don't know how to explain the depths or intricacies of it to anyone except, sort of, to me. And I think Jesus was pretty awesome—in the same way I also see Buddha, and Ghandi as awesome, and all people who devote their lives to love, peace, and compassion. Jesus saw humanity as all worthy of being saved; he saw all people as deserving of love. He was the turn-the-other-cheek guy, the forgiveness guy, the rebel, the new-path taker, the one who walked with everyone, spoke to everyone, believed in all people. Who wouldn't want to celebrate the birth of a guy like that?

And if you go to church on Christmas, and sit with others celebrating a life built on love, faith, and kindness? Well that can be beautiful, too. There's so much smiling in church on Christmas—I've been to church twice on a Christmas day, and it felt like a truly happy place to be.

But Christmas, the Thing, the constructed reality that we are expected to follow without questioning, I feel a bit full of that. I feel like we're at the edge of reinventing our Christmas, at a turning point where we might start choosing Something Different, something Else.

Our tree for a start.

The things we would like to give and get.

My kids and their wants.

I have asked my two what they want for Christmas, and repeatedly they've said, "Nothing." My son is saving for juggling clubs…all he'd like is maybe $5 towards those. My girl, well, she literally has asked for nothing at all. We aren't even doing stockings this year. I have bought one shared thing for them, and it's something I would have bought anyway, something they already know about and have seen. They want to give money to Animals Australia, to other charities that support compassion. They don't want any stuff at all. And…this is the most interesting part perhaps… we don't have anything for our extended family yet. Nothing!

It's that kind of Christmas we seem to be having. Already re-inventing, I suppose!

We'll see my family—my mum and sister and nieces and partners—and we'll eat food and we'll be really happy to hang out together. I know we will sing silly songs and my kids and husband and I will give our mostly home-made gifts (if we can make them in time?). And there might be moments we misunderstand each other or worry about something, and we mightn't have a perfect time.

And we will do it again, next year, because that's what we do. Because being together and singing Christmas songs and opening thoughtful gifts is a dance that can bring a whole lot of joy.

But one year… one day… ?

One day, I'd like my Christmas to be silent. Well, not silent… but quieter. Just shush, Christmas, please, just for a moment? Let me sit with you and look around.

I'd like the noise of the shops and the people asking me to Buy stuff to settle down.

I want to not be urged to buy things I don't need or want. I want to not buy stuff just because society tells me to.

I want to give when the giving makes sense, when the giving helps, when the giving isn't about material stuff, but about something Bigger.

I'd like all the junk to be replaced with food or shelter or medicine or books.

I'd like to sit on a beach, or an empty church, or walk in a field of snow, and I'd like to stop, and feel thankful.

I would like to sit and feel grateful to life. To the Universe. To god—whoever or whatever that might be. To the energy pulsing around, making the earth spin and my molecules knit, and my breath go in, go out, go in.

I'd like to spend a morning watching waves.

I'd like to hold hands with my family and tell each person why I love them.

I want to eat only plants, and talk about real things.

I want to listen and make a difference.

I'd like to do something of value.

I want to laugh.

I want to give.

Perhaps we already are? Beginning to have the Christmas I dream of? I think we might be.

This year, just yesterday, my kids, husband, niece and I made this tree. We had such a beautiful time doing it. I adore it, and everything it represents.

I think we will have a truly lovely time this Christmas day. I hope you all do, whatever you do—whether you are alone or with families—celebrating, working, living, giving… I hope you find joy.

Which is the same hope I have for you all the days! The ones before and after, every day that rolls out from you, roaring.

the elf with the santa hat and the reindeer were created by my beautiful niece. Juggler and Santa by my boy, cat by my girl. Star by the five of us. Fox by me :)


  1. Beautiful as always, Helena. And so thoughtful - the questions that probably should be asked. I sort of asked myself some of those, but the questions, and the answers are just too hard this year. Maybe next, inspired by you! Have a merry one, whatever form it takes!

  2. I always do love reading rambly Helena-type thoughts! It's so much more inspiring to Choose to celebrate rather than to do so just because it's expected. Wishing you a blessed Solstice a merry Christmas and a joyful and thoughtful Everyday.

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I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.