Why I Don't Do Christmas

Saturday, December 20, 2014 - 10:06am
Photo by Roman Lily

Why I Don't Do Christmas

by Krista Tippett (@kristatippett),  Host / Executive Producer

I played the Christmas game when my children were little. I was not reckless with the sense of wonder that collects around Santa Claus and the Baby Jesus and, alas, morphs the two together. I bought presents. Some years I even decorated a tree. Though some years I could let their father do this — a rare plus of raising children in two households. As he is an Episcopal priest, they would also go to church with him, leaving me to stew in my Scrooge-friendly juices.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy giving gifts. I think ritual is essential to human flourishing and to family life. We need more of it. I have a deep reverence for the incarnational heart of Christianity. I even still recognize faint glimmers of these impulses in the trappings of Christmas as we know it now, 21st-century style. But I think this season has more overwhelmingly become a distortion of them — a distortion of us as a culture, as humans, as families. And I for one am done.

Why do I dislike Christmas now? Let me count the ways.

I don’t like — don’t approve, refuse to throw myself into — the spirit of obligatory gift-giving. In my lifetime, this has become existentially linked to a commercial orgy that has now even co-opted the ritual angle. We have Good Friday and Maundy Thursday; we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Unlike Good Friday and Maundy Thursday, however (though like “fiscal cliff”) these terms are repeated and reported by the most serious of journalists. Like all mantras of ritual, they work on us from the inside. They are an economic event by which we measure a certain kind of cultural health.

This form of cultural health is not health at all. It is overwhelmingly an exercise in excess and trivia.

When I was growing up, even in a financially comfortable family, we waited all year for the new bicycle, the new Barbie, the new book. Christmas was a reward for a kind of patience. It was, in some sense, an exercise in delayed gratification. Those gifts were even presumed to be a reward for a year of goodness — a proposition, to be sure, that always had its fluff factor.

But we who are fortunate to have money to spend on Christmas presents inhabit a world now where the new bicycle — in modern-day translation: the new phone, the new video game, the latest greatest shoes — are purchased on demand throughout the year. I routinely wake up to find that my teenaged son has left my laptop desktop open to the “checkout” page, usually of a sports clothing website, where he has graciously filled in all the fields but my credit card number. I don’t always buy what he wants, but I cave in more than I’m happy to admit. That’s January through November.

Then there is the religious distortion of Christmas. Good Christians out there who do this with dignity, I don’t mean you. In most of the churches I’ve attended as an adult, Christmas is dressed up as a children’s holiday. A play. Not really for grown ups, not really about us. Make no mistake, I’ve teared up at that re-enactment of the manger scene many times myself, especially when my own children were sheep. It does not begin to do justice to the message of God become human.

When I became a mother for the first time, I was studying at Yale Divinity School, learning vocabulary like “Christology” — all the ways Christians have pondered the complex notion of Christ as both fully divine and fully human for the past two thousand years. So it was with incredulity and not a little annoyance that I found myself, in a state of severe sleep deprivation, singing “Away in a Manger” where “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Please.

More recently, there is also the maddeningly superficial way we’ve thrown other holidays into the mix, subsuming them all into general cultural buzz. The December that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was full-blown, my daughter traipsed through the house playing with her imaginary friends and singing “Oh Monica! Oh Monica!” to the tune of “Oh Hanukkah!”

Here’s what I take seriously. There is something audacious and mysterious and reality-affirming in the assertion that has stayed alive for two thousand years that God took on eyes and ears and hands and feet, hunger and tears and laughter and the flu, joy and pain and gratitude and our terrible, redemptive human need for each other. It’s not provable, but it’s profoundly humanizing and concretely and spiritually exacting. And it’s no less rational — no more crazy — than economic and political myths to which we routinely deliver over our fates in this culture, to our individual and collective detriment.

So here’s what I’m thinking about this Christmas. Recently I followed up on a promise I’ve been making myself for years: to wash and sort and give away all the good clothing my kids have outgrown as they’ve left childhood behind. It’s embarrassing that I never took the time to do this all along. In the course of digging around for where to donate, I stumbled on the site of a charity that works with homeless teenagers. It turns out that they’re not asking in the first instance for all these Levis and good-as-new, cool t-shirts. They’re asking for donations of socks and coats. They’re asking for newly purchased underwear, noting that most of us take for granted our ever-renewable supplies of clean underwear that fits.

I’m not going to buy any presents this year. We will go shopping as a family for these homeless teenagers, and I’ll try to be honest about the equivalent I would spend on my own children on the commercial holy days if I believed in them. I report this in some hope of feeding a little rebellion I sense many of us are quietly tending. But I also make it public to be sure I follow through.

As I said, we need each other. And that impulse, surely, is deep in the original heart even of the most secular things like Santa Claus and surrounding your home with lights: examining what we are to each other and experiencing that, sometimes when we do this, something transcendent happens.

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Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times bestselling author. In 2014, President Obama awarded her the National Humanities medal for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.” In 2013, she created an independent, non-profit enterprise designed to deepen the engagement of diverse audiences and amplify the unusual social impact of this content.

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Thank you for putting words to my deep-seated thought and feeling about Christmas. I so dislike it. And I'm a Presbyterian minister. Don't get me started about about "giving something up for Lent." Because that also becomes self-serving rather than the closeness to God it hopes to evoke.

You are following in the tradition of the American Puritans who made Christmas celebrations illegal in their early settlements.
Sorry to get you started on giving something up for Lent, but we fast to feel hunger, a sacramental of our hunger for God.It exposes us in our distance from God and our need for conversion.
May God bless you and all those dear to you in this Christmas season.

How beautifully put, Krista. Reading it provides its own moment of transcendence. Thank you

Beautiful and brave, Krista. May you and your family experience transcendence as you choose and give, together.

I totally resonate with this, Krista. I like to give gifts but I don't like when it is obligatory. I especially don't like giving things to children who are already buried and cranky under a pile of new so-called "toys". I have tried making homemade gifts but only the rare person appreciates the time and creativity that goes into craft. . . . However, having said all that, here are a couple things that have worked in my efforts to re-invent Christmas:
--we pack a bag of fruit and veggies and deliver them to a nearby woods for the animals on the night of the winter solstice. Our son, now 22, says this is his favorite holiday tradition. We now continue this with grandkids who like it too.
--I buy a fresh wreath to use as an Advent wreath; when Christmas comes it goes onto the door as a Christmas wreath.
--We have a table top tree (artificial) on which we put lights and only sometimes ornaments.
--I photocopied a dozen Christmas songs that I bring to family holiday parties. We sing.
--we contribute to Heifer International --"a llama in honor of our deceased Mama".
--I tell our grandkids "I'm not the grandma who buys you stuff. I'm the grandma who takes you on adventures."
These practices have accumulated over the years of raising a family and work pretty well. But I still get hooked by the gift-giving obligation this time of year.

I specially love your last practice: being the grandma who takes kid on adventure instead of the buying grandma!!! I would try this if I ever have grandkids. Thanks

I am a grandma that does not live near to my grandchildren. So please stop putting down we grandmas that send money and in the early years gifts. Am tired of all the mother in law, mother and the Grandmother that does not do things jokes. Many times the things that we have planned to do are not what the grandchildren want to do at that tim When we are with them. Fortunate are the GMs that live near their grandchildren. I love this article. It so summarizes my thoughts about this season for a very long time.

Thanks for sharing these ideas! I especially love the idea of feeding wild animals on Winter Solstice; if I ever have kids I will definitely make that an annual holiday tradition (and I may even start doing it myself!).

Deck the Halls! Or Not.

I’ve always loved Christmas. When my four kids were little I think I got more excited than they did, if that’s possible. Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year. So much anticipation in the air!

I searched for perfection. The perfect gifts, perfect tree, perfect Christmas dinner. I have an old photo of three of my four kids posing for the perfect Christmas card picture. I had them dressed in coordinating Christmas-colored outfits and I had a red bow around my big toe, which was sticking out of a walking cast propped up on a footrest.

Perfect. Except that both girls had big frowns on their faces. They didn’t like my choice of enforced attire; didn’t want to pose for a picture–and my prodding only made it worse. So there we sat, me and my cast, the two pouters, and a what’s-all-the-fuss-about toddler in my lap.

When the older three were grown and gone, and I was down to just the fourth child and no more husband, I made a big deal out of Christmas Eve. We had a special dinner for just the two of us in the dining room instead of the kitchen, with a million-dollar view of the neighbors’ extravaganza of lights, while Alvin and the Chipmunks belted out “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the stereo. Later that night, hot chocolate and Christmas stories. Pretty perfect, actually.

And, then, there was the Christmas my father was dying of cancer. I shook my fist at the gods and decorated the house for my annual holiday dinner with a vengeance. It was as if I thought I could cancel out the gloom in my heart with each poinsettia and bough of holly and candy cane. It almost worked.

But times have changed. Since then, as my family has dispersed itself hither and yon, and the older generation has passed away, I’ve begun to celebrate quieter Christmases. There’s a time for all seasons, and a time for new traditions. Now my tree is tiny and I put out just a fraction of the holiday folderol I used to, and Christmas mornings are spent walking through the neighborhood while families with children tear open their packages like mine used to.

I just don’t have the desire to devote the whole month of December to Christmas anymore. Others can start decking the halls right after Thanksgiving, but two weeks of Christmas is enough for me. I yearn for simplicity these days. The hyper-anticipation and hunt for perfection seems to have slipped away with my youth. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Perfection eluded me most of the time anyway. If I had it to do over, I’d let my girls pick out their own Christmas outfits, even if they were mismatched. Maybe they’d have had smiles on their faces!

I am SO in tune with your view of Christmases, past and present! I am now retired, living with my elderly mother and a sister (we are the caregivers), my only child and grandson live in another state and it's very difficult for us to get together for holidays. I haven't quite become Scrooge, but I definitely can't and won't be dragged into the commercialized muck and mire that this holiday has become. It's all about who gets the most "toys". Bah humbug!

Krista, you've put into thoughtful words some of what I've been feeling for a number of years. I dislike Christmas, the expectation of gift-giving, the expected and over-the-top decorating, the pressure on those with little money to purchase the most popular toys for their children, the promoted belief in Santa (I work at an elementary school) which forces parents to play the role, whether they can afford it or not, and which undoubtedly results in many disappointed and confused children. It has gotten so far out of hand. I appreciate and admire your determination to change the way you celebrate the season. Thank you!

Cheers, Krista! For standing up and speaking this truth that so many of us know and yet do not act upon.
In Seattle, YouthCare is a fine non-profit organization, over 40 years old, that serves homeless teenagers and young adults. www.youthcare.org Here's their link to Amazon where their current needs are listed. http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/L8U8RGCZLVDE/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v_T1-2
Peaceful holiday wishes to you and yours.

Thank you for this. Tonight I will be at a family Christmas party, giving my cousins homemade gifts and "examining what we are to each other." Best wishes.

Well put. How is it that we Christians became complicit in letting Christmas become the most consumption-oriented time of the year? We are so afraid that people 'won't have Christmas' if there isn't a pile of presents under a glittering tree - and that so totally misses the point.

I hesitate to write this it disagrees with the premise of Ms. Tippett's column. Listening to this week's interview with James Martin, I find a dissonance with his statements about joy and the idea of not doing Christmas posited by Ms. Tippett. Why does Christmas have to be an either or proposition? At face value Tippett's argument sounds logical, but there are people who can and have done both outreach and inreach to strangers, friends and families as a matter of course. We indeed can buy for family and friends as well as give to the needy families; something our family has done for years.

Is there too much commercialism in Christmas? Yes of course there is and we do have too much stuff with nowhere to put it. But are we not called to hold in tension the sacred and the secular? This is the path I walk as an Episcopal priest. I celebrate with gifts for friends and family but also devote a great deal of time to helping others have a Merry Christmas. Both fill me with joy at this time of year.

AMEN!

Thank you for being balanced. I love the celebrations and I love the time for reflection. I do believe if we are mindful and open we can do both.

Reading this with my sisters, we had the same reaction. Does it have to be either or? However, I don't think Krista would disagree with your comments. Perhaps she's trying to push a little harder to get us thinking in a deeper way about the meaning of Christmas? Perhaps an essay on the commercialization of Christmas (discussed so often) wouldn't have had the same effect on our thinking.

Thank you Krista for expressing sentiments I have long held but was afraid to express, for fear of "rocking the boat" in the face of "family tradition." Though I decided to cook/bake all my gifts this year--I did make purchases of "things" for my five-year-old twin grandsons. I struggled a bit with what to put in their stockings.Perhaps the best gift would be an outing with Nana J to share with those in greater need. Thank you, Krista for your inspiration. Peace.

Jesus never had to grow old.

yes how true...I am75....and will have to put a gun to my head if/when I get sick...why....no money...yes but you have a house...can,t give it away...family sure.but they have families and no money etc etc etc so no Christmas for me this year...just another day...

Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation, Lisa...I respectfully would ask if there might be a practice that does not require money, such as a lighting an existing candle or cutting a paper snowflake or some inward mental reflection, listening to a song--I like George Winston's December that you, yourself would select to make a day, each day, or a particular one, a day marked in your own special way...I suggest that perhaps this would be a way to invite in the guest of renewed hope during this time of year. Best wishes to you as you have 75 years of experiences to draw from and likely, they are much richer experiences than many others in our world who have not yet found their way to owning a home or seeing their family sprout wings of their own. Hope you are blessed with great and long-lasting health.

Thank you, Krista ... d'accord!! We have minimized 'Doing Christmas' for three decades, and now will expand the good by giving moreof what is NEEDED as well as enjoyed by those near us in true need.

(PS:
For mainly similar reasons, I loathe Mother's Day, an attitude learned from my own wise Mum. IF there must be such a set-aside event, it should be called "Mothering Day" akin to the Brits' version, to include all people who nurture others in any way, seems to me.)

the excitement of Christmas is the addiction created by Madison avenue. religion is a huge money maker and now even 1/3 of jews have Christmas trees or pine minoras. I am into the holiday season celebratinbg both christmas and chunuka together because 2 of my children married out of their religion. being an atheist and not into any religion would be good cause to call me a hypocrite, but In my mind it's all about family and there is nothing more important to me.
dj

"Religion is a huge money maker..."Love it. Now see, if you gave some $ to a priest/pastor/rabbi/imam, etc to intervene for you, whatever great spirit collects the dough from the go between will then reach down/up/sideways and grant you "faith" so you won't have to be an atheist anymore.
I shall celebrate any and every holiday/holyday I can because it makes an occasion to share love and whatever else we can spare. Joy to you (yes, Fr. Martin, I know.)

Krista, Almost but not quite there yet; I grew up in the lights but no tinsel generation, that was too garish. At 15, I was all too familiar with the existentialists and told my parents that "God Is Dead!" What an effect that had on my Methodist family.
Now, in my late 60's, I have spent the great majority of my life rejecting churches (I simply do not want to support what they represent, sit and listen to platitudes for an hour only to see members go on with their selfishness). No, I'm not holier than thou but I find greater meaning in simple nature. A walk is what I like at christmas, not wasting a tree's growth and all of the trappings.
Due to the festive vacation, I try to visit family, try to be a witness, acts of mercy, giving when no one knows, no one even has a clue who did something for them or left money to ease their life. To me, this is simply a response to the solstice, to a deep love for natural law and the creation that God's hand plays in the magic of what we call life.

James, your post reminds me of the original St. Nicholas, who was someone who creatively helped poor families without them knowing in response to the love of Christ. How have we gotten so far from the true St. Nick?

Thank you, Krista!

NO to mindless shopping and anything done merely out of obligation, competition, greed, or envy.

Stop. Rest. Listen to your heart.

YES to authentic, mindful time with loved ones. YES to our joy and our grief. YES to giving to those in need. YES to singing. YES to GRATITUDE and FORGIVENESS.

Thanks for putting words to the musings and emotions my heart and mind attempt to utter at this time of the year. I love what you're doing, and wouldn't it be lovely if we all did the same? Think of the help we'd be offering to the homeless of all ages! Brilliant!

Thank you Krista. It takes courage to assume such an honest position in the midst of a consumer culture . December is a dark month, a difficult month for many of us. MEmories seem to accompany us wherever we go and whatever we do.It takes grace to hold it all: the sadness at losses in our life and the overwhelming high of an incarnational Godwho loves us, and an awareness of all the support we have from other people. . Moreover I find all the commercial stuff( the buying, the decorating, the cooking,) although many of these are fun, they are really a huge distraction from those sentiments that make Christmas personally sacred, reflective, and tender. My biggest source of frustration is that not only do I buy into some of the commercial stuff, some of the personally brought on tasks , I then resent doing them. Each year there are pictures taken on Christmas Day. Even when I was young I looked tired, old and beat. You wonder, " Will she make another Christmas?"
Maybe next year I will undo Christmas- peel away the superfluous obstacles and welcome the Light in the midst of it all. I need more "ease" and less obligation. Maybe that's true for all of us. Anyone for Chinese take out??
A Blessed Christmas to all of you.
Fran, A Presbyterian Minister

I am one of those who can't buy many things through the year or for Christmas for many years. Many times visiting the food banks...my husband receives small disability and I work part time/ what government allows/- meaning living under poverty line. I am an immigrant- and I am shocked how many believers live here in indifference towards God and the other human being. People do not see anybody else just their goods and themselves. I do celebrate Christmas old fashion way , I just live my life bearing my cross daily and also on the Christmas day- being here for 22 years- in church nobody reached out to talked to me- not once/ as a new immigrant, newly married, giving birth to 4 children, having disabled husband, being poor, without any family on this continent/--I was hungry, stranger, sick--nobody sees Christ suffering. The worst part is I am part of huge group of neglected Christians- starving for human touch. practical love and mercy. Majority of North American believers are not capable to see, hear and love God, despite they know so much theory about Him. Clearly love is not there. Many can't give up a cup of tea, or imagine life without dog, trips, boats, etc. Than they are those who are faithful daily, give lives for Christ and another and do not talk about themselves. They just live simple love- daily. Many Catholics do not even care about Eucharistic Christ, never mind noticed suffering Christ to touch Him with love. Despite I am trying to reach out to others- did you try to hug a rock/ indifferent heart/ and be friendly, people do not want to be true friends- just to be locked in their comfortable huge mansions and not to be bothered, disturbed. Many are not even lukewarm anymore just dead.But Christ is here always, not only at Christmas- I learned this in my childhood- he waits , His love is real for those who have place for Him in their hearts and need Him- because they are dependent on Him, not like the rest of independent overachievers. Yes, Christmas brings the best Gift, but not many are able to receive Him, for their hearts are filled with trash, so there is no space for Him. I hope and pray believers here will not be so weak anymore, but recognize the lie and fill their hearts, lives, minds and souls with the Treasure, that nobody could take away and mainly they will not continue to make God sad,that instead of being the first and most important in their lives, He is on their list almost on the last place...

Ivetta, bless you for your words. I will look around my congregation with new eyes, is there someone I have been seeing for years, but not SEEING? All the best to you. I will pray that someone "sees" you. I know there are holy people surrounding you...look for them yourself,as well. I find many people really want to help but don't recognize who is in need. You will be a blessing to them, make your needs known to those people who are anxious and desiring to help

WOW......this is one everyone needs to read!!!!!!

Beautifully but sadly put, Ivetta... where on earth do you live? I am sorry to hear that things have been so challenging for you. Perhaps a new church might be a good place to start? Wish I could help you in some way. I have found in my own life that until I let someone know I needed something, I didn't know they were there to offer me their help. I've found that people are willing to help if you just let them know you have a need. May God bless you and bring you the help NOW that you need.

your words are beautiful. thank you for sharing them.

I've been over the "commercial" Christmas for many years. As I was running errands this afternoon for necessities, I forgot about the holiday shopping, heavy traffic and madness this time of year. I was feeling a little like an "alien" because I'm not into the Christmas gift exchange. Thank you for sharing...I now know I'm not alone.

Thank you, Krista, for having the courage and honesty to say these things. I feel exactly the way you do, and I have felt this way for many years now. If I had the ability to write well enough, I'm sure I could write a very long book detailing the reasons why I feel this way. The frenzy and nonsense begins earlier every year, and with each year it becomes more intense and overwhelming.

You are doing beautiful work -- here and on the show. Thank you for lighting the way. Blessings.

We have worked over the years to simplify Christmas. The spirit of gift giving is an ancient practice full of spiritual meaning; there is evidence from 30,000 years ago of offerings made. There is a dignity in giving and receiving that somehow has been lost through the actions of the corporate world.
I love to make gifts for my family and we will spend Christmas with our spiritual community. This was an inspiring essay.

The lesson of our modern Christmas is that as we increase the materialism we lose the spiritual. And to prove that human nature is universal, the same losses have occurred in the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu traditions through a similar transition from the spiritual to the commercial.

What if? (In Celebration of Christmas)
Priscilla Baker

What if we removed
the christmas trees and decorations?
the fruit cakes and egg nog?
the torrent of gifts and cards and shopping?
the brass choirs and candles in the windows?

We might find that inside all that packaging
lies an ordinary day,
a precious pearl,
decorated by the common gestures of daily living
(an inquiry, a helping hand, a smile, an appreciation)

What if each day was celebrated
as the birth of hope?

What if we were to sing songs of celebration
Bake cookies
Send cards of love
Light candles in the darkness

every day?

What if? A sensible reflection with an appropriate question. I seek for that "every day" connection everyday! May God grant me eyes to see and strength of heart to be open to give. Thank u for sharing.

Priscilla, this is simply lovely. We do so need this reminder. = "...an ordinary day,
a precious pearl,decorated by the common gestures of daily living..." I think I'm going to make this a daily meditation.

It is with great relief that I learn that I am not the only person fed up with Christmas.Every year I resist dealing with the commercialism, the canned carols, and the religiosity trotted out once or twice a year. My meditation and expression come from the return of the light, the amazing way that we can bring to the dark a lightness of being through altruism, coming together to sing, and in our overly busy lives make time for family, friends and strangers. The confabulation of the Christian holiday with pagan practices(solstice, decorated fir trees, and so on) is ironically amusing to me.The Christmas myth, rooted in much older stories, is a story for each human being born onto this planet... that there might be angelic rejoicing, gifts from those who have gone before, loving parents, and hope for a good life that will benefit the whole planet.

Yes,and yes again. I am currently fighting the urge.."maybe I should find one other small thing for..... Being the mother of 6 and their spouses and children, I have no end of "things" that I could buy if I put my thought to it. One thing I am doing for the 15 grandkids is finding them each a meaningful message...mostly from an old Advent book of Jan Richardson, and finding one wish or thought that seems like them....and adding a short message from me. this has been fun and real and then, because I suffer from "not enough" I put in $20. I am looking forward to hearing from them or "not" hearing from them.No big deal. Thank you for your wonderful program which I listen to usually! Mimi White.

I have a brother who struggles with several issues, including health, economic and addiction. He is a wonderful man who is sadly living a very difficult life. When we spoke this week, he mentioned that he wasn't coming to Christmas. He couldn't deal with the embarrassment of not having gifts for our eight nieces and nephews, who are beginning adult lives of their own.

I did my best to convince him that his presence was a gift—to the kids and to himself. That each member of our large family lives with circumstances that are relatively challenging and that our coming together, be it as a clan at Christmas Day or one-on-one over a cup of coffee under the summer sun, was the real gift of the holiday and of family. Support in the simple gathering together.

I suggested that he read a poem or tell each young person what he feels--and admires--about them. He liked the idea and said he would join in the celebration. I hope he sticks with that decision. If so, as we exchange gifts on Christmas, I will let my beloved youngest brother know, in no uncertain words, that he is a gift to me.

I grew up in a family with Scandinavian origins (both sides), and we celebrated the winter Solstice in meaningful ways that reflected our heritage: lighting candles, bundling up and singing outside, making seasonal meals, learning about the winter evergreen plants of holly and mistletoe and decorating our homes with them, and most of all enjoying each other's company. Honoring the cycle of life and rebirth with the return of light and the Western calendar new year.

Personally I don't understand "Christmas", a holiday inserted in December to supplant existing ancient solstice, Saturnalia, and other traditional pagan celebrations. For Christians I understand the essential importance and significance of celebrating Christ's birth - but this many (we hope, more enlightened) millennia later - I have wondered why it continues to be celebrated in December when the best scholarly research indicates that Christ's birth was much more likely in March.

A minor point, of course, the larger one being that today's commercial Christmas with its "black Friday/grey Thursday/cyber Monday/giving Tuesday/panic Saturday" (did I miss any?) frenzy bears no resemblance in practice or in essence to the original intent of the Christmas holiday. And, of course many practicioners have found ways to make it meaningful anyway. I respect that and I don't mean to generalize.

So I return to my original point: as an adult I continue to celebrate Solstice meaningfully, quietly (and sometimes not quietly!) and wholeheartedly and I understand its origin, being tied to the natural cycle of light and seasons on the planet. I don't understand the way "Christmas" manifests in its overblown commercialism and manufactured expectations (read: imposed societal pressures - sending cards, buying gifts, etc.), and I will always question the blind acceptance of WHEN it is celebrated in the calendar year without the reflection that a true historical understanding of the holiday would certainly encourage.

Thank you for the discussion, and the forum. It's hard to have these honest conversations without being perceived as self-important or contrarian in a world where "Christmas" is so culturally entrenched.

As they say, Americans have a holiday for almost every deadly sin: Christmas is greed, Thanksgiving is gluttony, Valentine's Day is lust, and Fourth of July is pride. Wrath, envy and sloth just have to be spread out throughout the year.

Amen to those words

Gee, Krista.

How long will it take you to recognize that everyday is a commercial day. All Christmas has become is one of the many "special" seasonal commercial days.

Then there are Valentine and Mother's day that challenge men and children to prove their "love" by how much they spend. Some special seasonal commercial days like Halloween don't pretend to be anything but.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has become little more than a reason to talk about what we OWE the economy through our "holiday shopping". Can't let the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists off the hook.

" I routinely wake up to find that my teenaged son has left my laptop desktop open to the “checkout” page, usually of a sports clothing website, where he has graciously filled in all the fields but my credit card number. I don’t always buy what he wants, but I cave in more than I’m happy to admit. That’s January through November. "

Really, Krista? REALLY? You're joking, right? Time for you to mommy-up and teach this boy some manners.

Thank you Krista. I enjoy your many rich interviews. I also feel my own link to your Xmas essay. I too relinquished my children to their fathers many years - at those times I put a few ornaments on the ficus tree. If a daughter was with me, we had a Christmas tree. Now they are threading their own ways through this holiday and it is a celebration for me if there is a daughter to cook with, joke around with, and embrace. I give a few gifts, mostly things that can be consumed -- the lotion bars I make from beeswax, Shea butter and coconut oil; this year, some colorful small ears of Indian corn I grew. Those can be hung as a decoration, or popped and eaten. The solstice, today,is a time for ritual and contemplation. I'll be on the mesa between the two mountain ranges that shelter this stage of my life (final? penultimate?), perhaps take a picture of the sun setting behind the Jemez range on the shortest day. Wishing you love and appreciation. Jude Pardee

DearKrista,

First of all, let me express my sincere thanks for your wonderful program. I have been repeatedly challenged and spiritually fed by your program.

I have turned to the practice of Advent, the practice of joyful anticipation. It is counterculture to the Christmas Kitsch I see all around me and a society addicted to convenience and instant gratification. I am giving much more to charity and am not giving gifts to people who don't really need them. I applaud you for bringing back the real Spirit of Christmas. What better way to honor Jesus than by following his teachings, his commandment to serve others?

I hope that you are filled with peace and joy on Christmas day, with wonder and awe at the radical belief that God chose to fully embrace the joy and suffering of being a mortal human.

Starry blessings

Robin

I don't even have kids, and I was deep into the "thing" of everything being perfect for a gathering we have each year on Christmas Day. Tank you for bringing me back to my senses, and to the realization that I NEED those people who are going to walk through my door, and they don't care if everything, or indeed anything, is perfect. A peaceful Christmastime to you, Krista.

Thank you yet again Krista for sharing your examples and for making a public commitment of your effort to create life balance and to practice justice and mercy during this holiday season.

I am in the midst of writing an annual note to two of my grandchildren, Liam and Tate --- 4 and 1 year old respectively.

We are very much still caught up in today's Christmas. We will enjoy wonder and laughter and attempt meagerly to bring the radical birth of Christ in to our lives. But through this note and a few small attempts at sharing our largesse with others, I hope to remind them of their role in the spirit of Christmas.

I want them to know that they are the true gifts, not what they receive and open. They, like few others, open our hearts all the time. I so want them to learn and appreciate the power that they possess by merely giving others joy, sadness,fear,hope and love. They, while far from perfect, are trying to practice Christ's message ... love your neighbor as your self ... give of yourself and the rewards will be great.

May we all for a moment reflect on the hope of the Christmas message.

Wonderfully put! I want to see generosity start on January 1, and run through the year. I decorate with 2 things, some lights and a small (1.5 ft tree) because it's so dark up here.

But I don't do anything else. I have lunch with my best-friend sister. We reminisce and we help each other all year. We sit with each other at the hospital and we take care of one another.

I did have a visit from "Santa" this year... I wanted money to eat more meat (I'm on disability) and a battery for my car. It gets cold here and the battery doesn't always want to start.

But then the Santa friend (I met him on a video game, no lie) ordered all the parts and constructed and sent me a brand new computer. My old one was dying. It an activity we enjoy to share, and we live 1500 miles apart.

The thing is, to observe the world around you, and when you see a need, fill it.

What did I do this year?... I found out a guy was about to end up living in his car. He had no prospects. Without an address, he wouldn't have found any. I invited him into my home in Feb and he got his drivers license, a job and an apartment. He's back on his feet. I shared all I had for 5 months. Food, utilities, space, my privacy. But in the end, I have a new friend.

I made 1 person un-homeless. I know homelessness. I've been there. And nothing beats a roof over your head a bed to sleep in. Sunset used to make me sick to my stomach because I didn't know where I'd go. I walked all night to stay warm. Homeless people aren't welcome inside. I was only 15. Clothes...yeah I needed them. But more, I needed a place that wouldn't send me back to my abusive parents and would help me heal, with a bed a roof and a daily meal. And that's a lot harder to find than you'd think.

It's a cold, scary world out there, an unforgiving place at times, and yet there is grace to be found, and goodness, and love and warmth. We get no guarantees we'll spend our entire life in the warmth and light. But Jesus suffered so we could spend eternity without the cold, hard, unforgiving place this world often is. We need to remember that. We are all just a few feet from the edge of the cliff. Only Jesus can save us.

Not being a Christian or other myself, I found this refreshing and a sort of answer to the cynicism my cohorts and I use to put Christmas in the same category as the countless pretenses societies use to generate market activity for economic gain. Why this though: "And it’s no less rational — no more crazy — than economic and political myths to which we routinely deliver over our fates in this culture, to our individual and collective detriment." Funny also the use the word myth.

Thank you for this essay, Krista. I was so happy when I heard you say you "don't do" Christmas. I gave up both Thanksgiving and Christmas six years ago. I just didn't have it in me to go to all that trouble anymore. I have become the "Johnny Cash" of anti-holiday sentiment. Just as he always wore black for his cause, I have sworn off the commercialization of these two seasonal holidays (and all the rest of them year-round as well...) until every man, woman and child in this world is fed, clothed and housed. I don't get the insanity of all the spending and the running around like crazed fools... there are so many people suffering in our world today, living in refugee camps, in the cold, in abject poverty and the most destitute of conditions, while economists have figured out there is enough money floating around this world for every single person to have $4.4 million of their very own! The money has been sucked up to the top of the heap by a very few very rich people. Well, Gluttony and Greed have their own rewards in the end... In the meantime, if every single person reached out to just one other person on this planet to help them, the world would not be experiencing the terrible problems that it is today. Congratulations to you as a recipient of the National Humanities medal. I loved your interview with Father James Martin today. I listen to your program every Sunday at 3pm and then sometimes again at 11pm when my local NPR station re-airs it. This program was especially engaging. I always learn something from listening. Backing up a minute, as for Thanksgiving, practice gratitude every day. It only takes 5 seconds to say thank you to the ether for something you've just been given.

I completely agree with you, Krista, and only give money or gifts to those who need them at Christmas time - my brother and sisters, nieces and nephews all have more than enough and so do I. My Christmas gift to me is always an end-of-year spiritual retreat somewhere where I count my blessings and thank God for my health. At 81, I take nothing for granted.

I haven't "done Christmas" with my brother, sisters, nieces and nephews in 20 years - instead I prefer to support local causes that don't require a trip to the Mall and give myself the gift of a 3-day end of year retreat, thanking God for my family, friends and my health. At 81, I take very little for granted and try to share what I have with those who need help at this time of year.

Similar reflection, on Thanksgiving Day...
What I give thanks for: opportunities that have presented themselves to me, through the good, always hard, and often risky work of those who have gone before, including myself, and to recognize in them elements that seem to allow me to apply the skills and knowledges that my teachers have helped me learn, to help share the task of bending Dr. King’s "arc of history" a bit more quickly and and a bit more broadly, toward justice. And for friends I’ve made along life’s way

bob letcher
All rights retained

My feelings - heart and soul - were made public and I couldn't have appreciated every single word and sentiment more! I also stopped doing Christmas for all the same reasons and, instead, sent a monetary gift to SEVA Foundation which provides sight (through cataract surgery and other types for eye disease) and sent it in the name of my family members. This did not go over well but, for me ... It was congruent with my deepest knowing and I will continue this practice, though, perhaps choose another charity. Anything is better than the typical gift exchange that feels like a huge waste of our time, energy, and dollars. Thank you Krista. I will steal some of your verbiage and send a more articulate explanation to my family this year, hoping they'll have a better understanding of my actions or, in this case.... non action!! Happy Blessed Holidays. I admire your forthrightness, integrity AND courage.

We enjoyed modest Christmases in my blue-collar family of origin. We'd go to midnight mass and "amazingly" Santa would come while our non-Catholic father was napping on the couch.

I enjoyed "doing" Christmas for my children. Presents were modest but fun, mostly games and silliness. I got the best piece of advice from a toy store owner - never buy your kids anything you see advertised on television. Lots of cookie baking went on. As the kids got older the presents were books and clothes and special activities.

Once they became adults the trees got smaller and the house decorations fewer. When our son was stationed in Japan we decided to forgo a usual Christmas - no cards or gifts - and save for a Christmas visit with him.

It was soooooo liberating that we have never gone back. We still exchange modest presents, cook good food, go out to hear some good music or see a play, but we don't totally makeover the house and wear ourselves to a frazzle in a consumer frenzy. We enjoy being together and making memories.

Beautifully written. God bless you.

It makes me think! Thank you.

It happens to everyone; the feeling of "obliged" is never enjoyable. We need to enjoy to accept things happily.

It's about being present, not the presents. It's about friends and family, love, joy and peace. It's a celebration of life that, truth be told, is something to be grateful for each and every day of the year. Have yourself a merry little Christmas any way you wish and may all your wishes come true. -God Bless

Great essay from someone who feeds our minds and souls every week. I'm sure your family will have that transcendental experience that you write about. When you give something of value to someone voluntarily you definitely get back much more than gave in thanks and good feelings. Particularly when you hand deliver it. Like when you help a neighbor. As an added bonus the receiver of your good deed feels good too because he or she then knows someone cares. Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

Thank you for sharing your insights, Krista. The issues you mention are some of the reasons I put an effort into celebrating Advent. I believe that I, like the society around me, need a time to long for, wait for, work for justice and right relationships -- things that I cannot just GET off the shelf. If Advent is a time of hopeful expectation, Christmas becomes a time of incarnation, appreciating that God took on a human body and all its exigencies, in order that we may become more like God.

Of course, keeping Advent is not easy as the commercial Christmas whirlwind blows all around me. I avoid stores as much as possible. I have found that internet shopping and curbside pick-ups help me not to get bogged down. I even wear blue shades of purple (for Advent) to Christmas parties that take place before the Christmas season. (I sometimes remind people that the 12 Days of Christmas begin on December 25th, not before.) My gifts for adults are donations in their names and, when I'm in town to visit with them, home-baked goodies. Gifts for children are books and art supplies and whatever else might draw out their intellect and imagination.

People may think that I have a "bah humbug" attitude without society's shallow Christmas spirit, but I try to bring genuine joy to the interactions that I have with friends, family and strangers.

~Becca Davidson YDS '95, '98

If in that respect is a small interruption in a blood vas

It seems to me that the mention that you went to Divinity School makes your insights more creditable. I want to point out that is it not about you anymore, it is about your children....setting a tradition for them, gathering family, and bringing memories to a time that is in the future for them. Christmas has never been about the parents, its about the wide-eyed wonder of a child on Christmas morning and feeling the love of their parents and love of something mystical (Santa or the birth of Christ depending on the child's age). For those of us who are older I will agree that the holiday has become too commercialized, but it is our duty as Christians to move past that, to make sure that our children know that Christmas is something more than giving presents. To know and to feel that in your heart.........that's Christmas, and that is worth sharing and worth teaching our children.

I gave up gift-giving about 15 years ago. I sat my family down and said that I was opting out -- don't give me gifts and don't expect any. I now give money to charities which reflect the values of my family members. For example, my daughter spent three years in the Peace Corps where she helped build a library in a remote village. We now donate to Books for Africa in her name. My husband and I make a recording every year for the grandkids. This gives them the gift of their grandparents voices -- voices I wish I could still hear. We read books and sing. They love it. Now at Christmas, we put a poinsettia on the piano and play and sing Christmas carols. We go to church to give thanks for the greatest gift ever given to the world. We don't miss the tree or the gifts. We have each other and Jesus. Who needs more?

Your essay prompted me to write my loving wife this note:

You have good company in pulling away from the standard activities of the holiday season of buying gifts, decorating and so forth. Krista Tippet (she does a radio show called On Being) wrote an excellent piece about why she is not doing Christmas this year. At the bottom of this note I have included her piece. The reaction to her essay was overwhelming agreement, with a couple of mild disagreements which I liked and have also attached below.

You may think that Christmas for me is fake trees, colored lights, and Cyber Monday spending. It is not. Indeed for me, like you, there a bit of “bah-humbug” and a desire to reflect. Some people stand in line for the lowest price on the latest toy. And some of these people cannot afford a higher price and want to please their child. On the other side of the counter, retailers seek to put their businesses in the black in the fourth quarter, so sales get more competitive and even more gaudy.

December 24th I love to listen to the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast from Cambridge England. I enjoy the excessive lights of the two houses in LaPlata, Maryland but am content with simple white lights on our home. I even enjoyed driving around in holiday traffic today delivering photos to Duncan and Melissa … a techno-Santa. It’s like Christmas for me is fragments of memories from childhood such as driving around the neighborhood with my parents and brother to look at all the lights, the recognition of its economic impact (bad and good) and efforts to reassemble something personally meaningful and pleasant.

Whatever evolves, mostly I cherish our time together whether it be “watching an episode” on TV or strolling the grounds of Grounds for Sculpture in Trenton, New Jersey or hanging out with friends on Boxing Day … matters so simple that it is difficult to put into words. Maybe the words are just I love you.

I could not agree more with Krista's view on Christocracy, i.e. a celebration of gifts wrapped and bowed, credit card debit, and entitlement. I will prepare food and serve the homeless in Nashville, TN today as my wrapped gift to them. And if awakening tomorrow, it will be another opportunity to extend kindness to others, opening my heart instead.

You could not have put what I have felt for many years so eloquently. For many years I have felt conflicted growing up in a roman catholic/baptist household. Meeting other Christians prized on the gifts has made me mentally disturbed in who these people were heavily in the faith. I have asked many others before, if you want to give me a gift, please give to a charity. I have all the pots and pans, trinkets,dust collectors I could ever wish for. Much negative response to that, as if i was rejecting them in some unnatural way. Where in my heart I have always felt Jesus would not care or be happy that you gave your child so much$$$$ in gifts on his day of birth, knowing the biblical history. It actually disturbs me, saddens me. Like you just wanting to give back in charitable efforts in retort and heartfelt truth of this misconstrued craziness we call the birth of our spiritual leader. You have given comfort,your piece I listened to today with the Jesuit gave me comfort. My face was/is ear to ear teeth knowing I'm not alone in my thoughts. I take this day whole very serious especially when reflecting. Thank you for your personal gifts. I appreciate deeply all your works. What you do makes me research, grow, understand others. I have never heard anyone else and who you interview bring so much in one hour. With sincere appreciation for your team, your interviewers, you, Bonnie Jo Cobb

from Rabbi Sidney Greenberg: "On holidays we run away from duties. On Holy Days we face them. On holidays we let ourselves go, on Holy Days we try to bring ourselves under control. On holidays we try to empty our mind. On Holy Days we attempt to replenish our spirit. On holidays we reach out for the things we want. On Holy Days we reach up for things we need. Holidays bring a change of scene. Holy days a change of heart.

Thank you. This is so right and so helpful.

Iread this post yesterday and reflected on it overnight. While I agree that, it goes without saying the materialism of Christmas is out of control, as a psychotherapist by vocation, I can say that some people are just not skilled at sharing their love and gratitude with words. One of my favorite people, my mother in law, is one of those people. She is someone who dropped out of high school to start working as a teenage girl, and she is just not the most verbal person in the world, but she is one of the most loving and generous. And how does she express that love and generosity--particularly at Christmas--through food and gifts. Now, she is someone who lives on a fixed income, and I could make all the arguments, all the shoulds, of why the abundance of food and gifts is not the most direct way or the most earth-friendly way to say "I love you, and I am grateful to have you in my life," and yet, that is her way. So, rather than judging her this year,as this is not my way and as a non-Christian Christmas is not even my holiday, I will hug her and say "thank you, I love you too."

Exactly! Why are we so hard on each other? At Christmas the things I notice are the charity food boxes at my local supermarket overflowing; the palpable goodwill circulating among attendees at carols in the park; the goofy teens having their picture taken with Santa as well as the little ones with their shining faces; the extra chit chat between shopkeepers and customers; and the ridiculous but endearing drivers who feel inspired to adorn their cars with felt reindeer antlers. Is it what you look for that colours what you see I wonder? Instead of seeing consumerism and oppressive social obligation, we could also try seeing acts of love and care and fellowship, some more sophisticated than others, but these people we judge for doing Christmas "wrongly" or corrupting it... in the end, they are individuals, and almost all would be doing their best, trying to make the day special the best or only way they know how. Let us be more forgiving of one another :)

Yuck. What a load of self-congratulatory hogwash. Krista doesn't like, doesn't approve [of], refuses to throw herself into something that no one other than herself asks her to participate in. She buys her kids things all year long, then somehow thinks this is relevant to Christmas? Just wow. And apparently churches that might have children participate in a Nativity play are not "good Christians who [celebrate Christmas] with dignity." And forget singing "Away in a Manger." It doesn't seem to rise to Krista's level of spiritual development, acquired, we are told, at Yale Divinity School. That, apparently, is now a requirement for celebrating Christmas as "good Christians."

Reacting against a commercialization of an important religious observance is one thing. Getting up on that very high horse and writing this piece of "excess and trivia" is quite another.

You make some good points.

Yes, you said it. What a pile of moralistic, self-righteous hogwash. I, for one, am inspired to go out and buy more "obligatory gifts". What a sad Scrooge this woman is.

It's sad to me that we turn Christmas into a competition to shop and give the perfect gift. As a result, some carry an unnecessary load of guilt because they don't have the means to provide gifts for those they love.

I dislike the tired "This is why I don't do Christmas" stuff as if you haven't been an adult who has made her own decisions about what this time of year means. I am an atheist who loves this time of year - hates the commercialism - loves getting out into my community and organizing people and gifts and food. Why this "I don't do Christmas" stuff is cruddy is that it makes the season about condescending sensibilities - and not about the opportunity to make it whatever you want to make it. Deck the halls, sing Christmas carols - go shopping for things that are needed or wanted - make food - gather with friends. And, if you're telling us that it's only now that you've looked up and decided that you should do something for the community during this time of year - well - great. People can actually do both - do a traditional Christmas and get out and do something for those in need. I guess what I am trying to say is: let people be and do what they need to be and do and do what you need to do to make it your holiday. And, we need to stop "Christmas shaming" people. No one should care a single whit what others are doing. And, what these kinds of articles do in the homeless community? Suddenly 100 people show up at the door Christmas Eve demanding to "help" taking time and resources away from those who maybe thought about it a few times during the year and not just when they were made to feel guilty by reading some article about what people "should" be doing with their holiday. And, that - as someone who gladly accepts used clothing but, would never offer used clothing as a Christmas gift to anyone in need at this time of the year (ick) - is the truth. You create more real problems than solving fake ones when you write stuff like this. And, that is the truth of the season. Merry Christmas.

I almost didn't read because of the headline. The phrase "don't" do Christmas put me off. Read it anyway and have healthier perspective on "doing" Christmas the right way. Yes, the humble birth of Jesus would be embarrassed by the commercial trappins, but gladdened by your sharing the joy of His birth with the least, the last, the lost, especially the young. Thanks for sharing your words with us.

Amen and amen. For many years my "Christmas shopping money" has gone to Heifer Project. My son loved the idea of getting a goat or some chicks for Christmas to give to someone who needs them to survive. This year, however, I am giving it to help build a medical clinic for a Guatemala village that has no health care.

Krista,

As always, beautifully and succinctly put! You tap into the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit that Linus spoke of in A Charlie Brown Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Ryan

Amen. And Happy (Real) Christmas.

I am sharing with all my 800 FB friends I pray the rebellion begins this year! God bless you and yours!
Peace
Lance

Thank you. I'm not sure what else to say beyond that. I've spent a lifetime trying to please myself and others with things, only now to watch what is most dear begin to leave. Loved ones passing, children leaving, jobs changing. The list. And you give to me, a great gift. Thought and reflection upon what is as important as anything else. Being. It's not cliche. Not at all. We need to be in community, in communion with the greater good. And that is in itself a gift to be given. Underwear to teens, food to those who need it. A smile and a quick hello to the grumpy guy (sometimes me) coming towards you. Now, I'll ponder how to get my 16 year old to the phone store, and how we'll carry the trove of gifts to cousins, nieces & nephews. Whether online gifts get delivered in time. The baking, the straightening, all of it. And I'll snatch a moment to remember this reflection, and thank you again. For continuing the revolutionary tale begun all those centuries ago. Peace and blessing to you and yours today and always.

I have agreed with every statement shared for some time. I tried it with my children (8&11). They were both devastated. They didn't understand. They are not greedy or selfish children. Both are pleasant, kind, and appreciative. I decided that their failure to understand was my fault (poor parenting), and resumed the usual presents under the tree. They were so relieved. The oldest was actually physically ill with symptoms of anxiety prior to my reversal. I feel like such a failure.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Why can't a family have presents for their children and still teach them the "real" meaning of Christmas? My children learned a song in Sunday school--"We love because God first loved us." And our children and the other children in our church learned that we give (and get) gifts as we remember God's gift to us, the birth of Jesus. Christmas doesn't have to be either/or, as others have commented.

You clearly are not a poor parent if you've raised kind, pleasant and appreciative children! For myself, I love the notion of the season of giving. I experience difficulty in making sure I can wrap every gift with joy. I cannot feel joyful in giving piles of plastic toys to children who already have so much. I think feeling obligated to give can suck the joy right out of gift giving. But, I love to give so many homemade presents are wrapped in this household.

One of my favorite gifts to receive are the beautifully decorated homes in my neighborhood. I really appreciate the time my neighbors spend to decorate their homes so we can all enjoy walking or driving down lighted, twinkling streets. Thank you to everyone who gives in this delightful way!

Thank you for putting into words what I have been thinking and feeling since thanksgiving. Your editorial reaffirmed my feelings during the holidays. I so appreciate your honesty.

Thank you again for your timeless words.

Well said.....

Krista, you have kept me sane and grounded for now years.

Thank you.

This is absolutely beautiful and made me tear up. I have felt extreme amount of guilt from family in friends this year. My boyfriend and I moved cross country after we finished our masters to pursue our dreams and don't have a penny to spare on anyone or even have a fancy holiday meal. Instead of feeling that guilt building up inside of me this Christmas Eve we instead are going to volunteer our time. I wish there wasn't this unseen unheard tension because we were the only ones not gift giving in the family, but that just proves your point. Thank you for this and I'm so glad I found your blog.

I thought I was being a mindful mom with "one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear and one thing to read." I am now starting a new tradition..."four things to gift to others in need."

Thank you Krista for shinning the light into our ownselves so that we can shine brighter from within. May you and your family have a joyous and transcendent holiday.

Thank-you for sharing. I feel very similar and know of others who do as well.
My favorite holidays? Thanksgiving and birthdays.Simple, usually filled with love and reflections.

I'm right there with you! Breaking a life long cycle of traditions is not easy but,after reading "Skipping Christmas", I stopped with the cards, the gifts, the baking, the decorating . . . it has opened time to minister to others who are overstressed and searching. . .and to use that time and money to help others in need. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing this, Krista. As we Quaker are known to say, "This Friends speaks my mind." These days I do little "celebration" in the traditional sense. I used to send out a mass of cards, but even that bit of tradition seems now to be merely a concession to the corporate takeover of the holidays.This past Sunday we attended the annual Christmas pageant at our Quaker meeting in Sandy Spring, Maryland. It was resplendent with children, families, live sheep, and a guest appearance by two young alpacas standing in for camels. A makeshift orchestra, complete with a bassoon and washtub bass, gathered at 9:00 AM for its only rehearsal before the 10:00 AM retelling and re-enactment of the Christmas story. We sang the well-known Christmas songs and even a beautiful Quaker Christmas carol, "A Star Filled the Sky." We watched as first Mary and Joseph, and an unbelievably complacent baby Jesus, made their way to the facing bench in the 200 year old meeting house. We leaned forward from our place in the balcony to watch as the shepherds entered with their sheep. We joined in the audible, corporate "Awww" when the two cuter-than-imaginable alpacas wandered in wide-eyed with the wise guys from the East. We giggled, then laughed, aloud with the children when, after settling into silent Quaker worship for only about a minute, the silence was shattered by the bleating of one of the sheep, followed almost immediately by the frightened wailing of baby Jesus. Though Quaker worship ended abruptly, it was nonetheless a powerful, centered meeting that found us connected to one another and the Light of God. It was the most delightful, authentic, and welcome respite from the onslaught of the corporate holiday season this year.

You said it best: the "holiday" should be renamed "moneyday." We have forgotten the true essence and spirit of all of our holidays and we have become manipulated by business interest. Thank you Krista for giving words to my deep feelings about how to properly celebrate Christmas with my family.

Beautifully said, Krista. We skipped the gifts this year, as thankfully all of us have what we need. I instead gave gifts to the preferred charities of my family and friends. Our family will share time and food in each other's company...the best gift of all.

i was raised in a non-religious but sort of Christian home. I've been a doubter and now a full blown atheist but I love Christmas! It's a celebration of family, tradition and history whether celebrating the winter solstice or a Christian myth or a jolly Santa. It tends to bring out moments of kindness in the sea of the excess. The music, the food and family gatherings and yes the gifts which are often expressions of special concerted thought for what will make our friends and family smile. Yes, there is excess but there are also lovely moments of joy - even for this non-believer. Merry Christmas

I wish I could "like" your comment a la Facebook.

Thanks you for such a lovely article. Someone sent me the link and it's just what I needed to start Christmas eve. We need to give more from our heart and understand the real meaning of Christmas. Happy Holidays to All!

I'm a Pagan who grew up non-religious, in a consumer driven, anxiety ridden family. I detest Christmas in the US & the blind consumerism. My husband and I did token holidays when his kids lived with us, and thankfully, have not since they've grown up. It just depresses me, and I am always glad when it's over.

Thank you for the beautiful resonance and truth-telling.

I have been thinking about this for quite sometime now. I asked God to please show me a sign that my feelings were right and my decision is the right thing to do as far as Christmas goes, and here you are. Christmas has changed its meaning it is more about a gift giving profit for the business world and in my husbands family it is a way to use a secret vengeance to hurt someone you do not like. It definitely is not about being Christ loving... With some of my family Its about receiving instead of giving and who spends the most money and gives the better gifts, for a few of them it's not good enough and many times for a few of them what you got through the year was forgotten about, its Christmas. Sometimes I would save through out the year so I could give to my family, a few of them did not like our gifts, so I chose to just send money, for some it wasn't ever enough, and even though it is expected for us to spend, we sacrificed allot to give what they thought wasn't enough. I never once gave a gift that would hurt someones feelings,even to the few who meant to use Christmas to hurt mine. This year I decided to start making quilts, saving children's clothes, which I choose to give to struggling native Americans(https://www.naha-inc.org/) . This is where I know in my heart the need is great and being grateful is blessed for both giver and the receiver for the heart understands where the need is to go. Thank you for this... Many blessings to you and yours. <<<<<< This comment was blocked and unpublished because Project Honeypot indicates it came from a suspicious IP address.

I knew I loved you Krista! This clinches it!

This Christmas is special because we haven't seen our daughter in two years. She's been living and working in Japan. We have missed her so very much. I think that as a twenty-five year old woman, she does not recognize that her parents love her very much, that with her home our Christian practice is complete. Christmas time is the only time we come close to practicing anything Christian, and we love my daughter--we are made more loving now that she is home and we don't gather before the computer for glimpses of her life in Japan. For more than 18 years she graced our home when she was more innocent. I hope she can again allow us to practice innocence and love and understanding at a time in our lives when much of this has disappeared. We are turning to our days of being seniors--she allows us to give our love, to give to each other, to give to her. For us she has helped us to love her more completely as our daughter.

Thank you for being true to your soul, and sharing it with us. I've been struggling with these same thoughts, and see the heart and courage in them, instead of just the rejection of what goes on in our society, as I listen to this post. Your work pushes me forward spiritually all year long, and I appreciate you. Thank you.

This sums up my feelings this year so well. I have children who (despite my best efforts) are so caught up in what they wan for Christmas. I struggle with how to address this ever growing "want" without at the same time feeling like a Scrooge. Preaching the true meaning of Christmas is so overshadowed by the non-stop frenzy of presents. I actually want to cancel the holiday. Guilty!

Wonderful. Thank you.

Thank you putting into words what I've struggled with for many years. With my new empty nest I'm learning to let go of appeasing the masses for the sake of going along. It's nice to step out of the crazy and enjoy the quiet and the light.

Thank you. I have lived in the tension between well established family/community traditions, some of which lack a certain amount of depth even if they do provide ways to connect with each other, and the richer deeper meaning of the season that says so much more. Trying to shift the center of gravity away from what I have come to think of as "Christmas" toward "Advent" has been a helpful way for me to shift the orbits of those two gravitational pulls toward the richer one, without sounding too elitist about it. For me, and those around me, even that language shift has been helpful in nudging things along. Thanks for the encouragement to continue to shift my trajectory toward the proper orbit, and perhaps encourage others to feel the pull of the same path as well.

Just... Thank you.

Are we related?

I understand what you are saying. The major reason I stopped participating in Christmas is that this time of year the body wants to go inward and experience more of our Divinity. All of nature shows us this, as the days shorten. All of our ancestors understood this. The Native Americans called this time of year "Story Time". The Natives in Finland called this "Dream Time". Most everyone I talk with resonates with this on some level, but feel that through "peer pressure" they must continue to play the game.

This is the time of year that we can experience that Divine Child within, the One that connects with All, no matter what 'religion' or 'faith' that you identify with.<<<<<< This comment was blocked and unpublished because Project Honeypot indicates it came from a suspicious IP address.

I realize now that we will never have the Christmas of old return. Where one or maybe two small gifts would be given to each other, then we would share a simple meal and enjoy conversation and the warmth of our family and friends. It has turned into a three ring circus. This year I found myself struggling more than ever to buy any gifts for the family. Knowing that they would be overloaded with gifts from other family members. It does not feel right any longer. But I do not know how to end this, I fear my family will not understand. They do not know or talk about God any more. He is uninvited. I think it is I who have changed and can no longer accept this.

Thank you. We have been doing something like that for years and my children haven't missed getting all that "stuff".

I heard you mention this post during your interview with Father Martin (which was transformative). I made the decision to listen to your post Christmas morning...as a kind of gift to myself. I had no idea what a soul - confirming gift it would be. As you often do, you have articulated my deepest thoughts and prayers into such beautiful and meaningful words. You are a true gift in this world. Merry Season of Christ and God Bless you, Krista!

Perfect! You have put into words the feelings about this season that I've pondered for many years.

Thank you for your boldness in sharing these counter-cultural, thoughtful sentiments, Krista. But I was surprised you didn’t mention what I see as the main message of Christmas that has been lost on our society at large, and even most of our churches: That the biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus is brimming with references to what will be the theme of his ministry—inclusion of the poor and marginalized, and the downfall of the powerful and rich. We see this in Mary’s magnificat (“he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”) We see this in the selection of the shepherds (the outcasts of their day) to be the first recipients of the news of the birth of their savior. And of course we see this in the selection of “lowly” Mary as mother of Jesus. And yet when our society digs deep for the meaning of Christmas, the best that seems to come up is a “season of giving,” that refers back to the obligatory gift giving and consumerism that you referenced, and that largely misses the whole re-balancing of power and wealth message of Jesus’ ministry, presaged by the birth story.

Thank you for putting my feelings about the holidays into words. We sometimes forget that there is sadness around the holidays, longing for loved ones not with us...anxiety, starting in October about expectations of the "happy holidays"....and worry that someone doesn't care if we don't recieve a card,phone call or email. I will try to focus ahead to the new year with the intention of following my dreams and living the best life I can.

Mrs. Jellyby. I hope your superior morals keep you warm during the holidays, dear. I find you silly.

I had the most horrible Christmas ever, and I couldn't seem to stop the pity-party. I am living with my elderly parents as mom broke her leg and sprained her arm. Dad, at 86, is doing everything he can to care for her but it's too much for him. This is my second year away from my children and grandchildren! Skype is ok, but hugging is better. I realized this is the first year I've not had a gift to unwrap. I gave to my kids and grandkids hundreds of miles away. But, here's the ugly me. I argued with my mom about not letting me decorate her house. She has decorations galore in the garage. She is the wonderful mom who taught me how to change our home into a magical, fun, and holy place. It hurts, I realized how selfish and childish I was. I didn't take into consideration how hurt mom was. She's the decorator, the baker, the cook, the hub of her home. While I'm her daughter, it just is not my place. And my poor dad, he's never been big on decorating because of the inevitable clean up, but he was solidly behind mom no matter what. Sixty-four years of a truly loving marriage. I felt like a bratty interloper. So, it took me two days of sleeping through Christmas, crying, a lot of reflection,and ultimately the realization that I may not have many more Christmases with them. I am profoundly sorry and profoundly grateful for the gift I have right here, right now: My mom and dad. Any circumstances I find myself in that aren't ideal, they are of my own selfish doing. That's a really big pill to swallow. Merry Christmas, mom and dad. Merry Christmas to my children and grandchildren. I will make next year better if I am given the Grace to do so.

Thank you, Krista. Sign me, and my family, up for the rebellion. Looking forward to much more insurgent love and compassion.

Why I Do Christmas
Yes, it has come to this, the solemn narrative behind a sacred holiday purged of its mystery. The story now told by riots of twinkling lights on neighborhood rooftops, and on street corners by sign spinners in Santa hats. By malls festooned with red bows and tinseled silhouettes of reindeer, where artificial snowfall dusts the heads of giddy shoppers. By heavenly muzac in the churches of commerce, wafting over the babbling aisles of cosmetics and perfumes. Fleets of curly-toed elves attending Santa Claus’s candy cane hut. And Santa himself, who is everywhere at once, his red velvet suit here well-fit to his fulsome self, but noticeably saggy for that photo op at the children’s hospital.

The story of the season is excuse for excesses. Butter cookies and eggnog; Douglas fir trees by the thousands hauled into living rooms; “ugly” sweaters, and felt antlers on SUVs and dachshunds; long lines at the post office, for sending letters with only the good news extracted; much money spent on that silk shirt to mend a rift with dad; and after populating the kitchen with gingerbread people, just time enough time to collapse on the couch and watch Donald Duck’s version of Christmas.

So what has this to do with the spiritual moment of the nativity, the heft of the revelation of God become human? To reverse the Ignatian meditation of entering into a scene from Jesus’s world, imagine him stepping right into Christmas, in this year, 2014. Watch his face beholding the spectacle – and in his selflessness, how he smiles, with affection. He sees humanity as we are, still benighted and lost like men on camels in the cold dark, struggling imperfectly, but exuberantly, toward anything that resembles the light. He knows that for those of us not so brave and heroic in a harsh world, Christmas calls forth these crass and clumsy enactments of generosity and joy. He knows that at this befuddled time in our human history, it is the best we can do. And he laughs out loud, catching sight of a merry man in a wrinkly red suit as he gathers the children into his arms.

We live far away from our grandchildren, and so the holiday skype is our ritual. As the images came up yesterday, they were there smiling and holding onto various gifts, barely able to contain themselves, waiting for our inevitable question. I asked them, instead, what they had given their parents, and why. Everything changed and their joy became focused and real,instead of greedy and addicted.

yeah me too, im not a conformist, i dont just do what everyone else does, christmas does not care about me so why should i care about it.
im not gonna delude my kids with lies that will retard their mental health.

Thank-you for putting a name to my feelings. As I've grown older, I too have become totally disenchanted with the Holiday Season and love the fabulous alternative and meaningful ideas I've read in both the article and the responses. I'm not a Scrooge but a realist concerning the utter commercialism and consumer insanity that has replaced whatever celebratory this season once stood for. Tomorrow, the lights, the tree, and glitter come down (the earliest ever) and next year, things will be different. My celebration will not be the sum of my dollars spent between Thanksgiving and December 25! Peace...

Yes, it has come to this, the solemn narrative behind a sacred holiday purged of its mystery. The story now told by riots of twinkling lights on neighborhood rooftops, and on street corners by sign spinners in Santa hats. By malls festooned with red bows and tinseled silhouettes of reindeer, where artificial snowfall dusts the heads of giddy shoppers. By heavenly muzac in the churches of commerce, wafting over the babbling aisles of cosmetics and perfumes. Fleets of curly-toed elves attending Santa Claus’s candy cane hut. And Santa himself, who is everywhere at once, his red velvet suit here well-fit to his fulsome self, but noticeably saggy for that photo op at the children’s hospital.

The story of the season is excuse for excesses. Butter cookies and eggnog; Douglas fir trees by the thousands hauled into living rooms; “ugly” sweaters, and felt antlers on SUVs and dachshunds; long lines at the post office, for sending letters with only the good news extracted; much money spent on that silk shirt to mend a rift with dad; and after populating the kitchen with gingerbread people, just time enough time to collapse on the couch and watch Donald Duck’s version of Christmas.

So what has this to do with the spiritual moment of the nativity, the heft of the revelation of God become human? To reverse the Ignatian meditation of entering into a scene from Jesus’s world, imagine him stepping right into Christmas, in this year, 2014. Watch his face beholding the spectacle – and in his selflessness, how he smiles, with affection. He sees humanity as we are, still benighted and lost like men on camels in the cold dark, struggling imperfectly, but exuberantly, toward anything that resembles the light. He knows that for those of us not so brave and heroic in a harsh world, Christmas calls forth these crass and clumsy enactments of generosity and joy. He knows that at this befuddled time in our human history, it is the best we can do. And he laughs out loud, catching sight of a merry man in a wrinkly red suit as he gathers the children into his arms.

A Blessed Nativity. Christ is Born! Let us celebrate Him who came to earth that we might live in heaven.

Oh no I have to disagree with you mainly because I am one that used to hate christmas for many of the same reasons you address. But then my husband and I(no children) found simple ways to make it meaningful and lovely. Sharing Christmas with either of our families was more then empty, it was draining-too much excess as you point out. For us too much bad food, too much money spent on junk, too much disappointment-sadness from the past etc. So we stopped doing Christmas with either of our families. I love to bake so everyone gets gifts from the oven for starters. My husband and I don't exchange gifts but rather make it special by spending time together, making the house sparkle with winter light, fresh cut greens and herbs and spices. This year he even became a sugar cookie decorator with me. We have a lovely Christmas Eve dinner for that we dress for and bring out the nicest china and silverware. Its just the two of us but it feels rich and special. There are probably two critical factors that allow us to burrow in to our little refuge and block out the noise of Christmas you refer to. First, we live in a mountain town surrounded by beauty (13,000 ft peaks), where we have virtually no shopping-the closest city with such is 4 hours a way, and secondly we have no TV. We lose the rest of the world pretty quickly. This year we didn't have snow, but normally Christmas day would be cross country skiing and then home for dinner of soup, salad, and fresh homemade bread or such. By living where we do, taking the hard step of becoming orphans for the day, and turning off the TV we have been able to make Christmas ours, and quite meaningful even if pretty simple. It is a celebration of our blessings and the gift of beauty we have found in our lives. So maybe that is not exactly the traditional meaning of Christmas and certainly not Wall Street's but it enriches us and hopefully lets us be better people as we confront the world.

Wonderful said, truth shines in this message I believe.

Wonderful said, truth shines in this message I believe.

great thoughts and sharing - there is a group in MPLS called "Doing Good Together" that can be helpful for families to look for new ways to help families become more aware of others by volunteering together.