Blog Post Content

Me and ThemIllustration by Libby Levi

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.

Leave a Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


Thank you for writing this. It was clear, well said, assertive (but not aggressive), establishing your rights to choose how to celebrate without criticizing other people's choices. Very well written. We, as a family, chose to "give up" the celebration of Christmas in all its material forms quite a number of years ago. My youngest was between 3 and 6 when we made the decision as a family. First went the tree. I cannot stand artificial trees and we were all concerned about the environmental impact of chopping down natural trees every year. So that year, the stockings from Santa were left on the kitchen chairs. The next year, we asked Santa not to come - to pass on our gifts to other kids who have less than us. That year, no decorations were put up. That was when my youngest was between 3 and 6 years old. So he grew up without really knowing about Santa. He has not suffered and neither have the other children. That was also the year we didn't give each other gifts (we have another time of the year where we do that). Now, we appreciate the days off to recoup and relax and refresh and prepare for the new year. It is a great way to celebrate Christmas rather than the frenzy that the rest of the country seems to get into.

Amen! I share your sentiments and have also "boycotted" the insane practice of obligatory gifts! I agree with you, wholeheartedly and consider myself a member of this force of resistance to a "commercialized", " trivialized" version of Christmas.
Christmas to me is the opportunity to enter slow time, while the masses are caught up in the hunt for gifts.
I am so grateful for your voice and the courage to share your heart with us... so refreshing, a voice of reason !
So many have so much and so many, not enough. Underwear and socks, it is for a local charity in my area

Thanks so much for the straight forward candor about Christmas, and how, by and large, we have gotten gluttonous and consequently, blinded to the essence of what it means to celebrate divine incarnation into our daily experience. The "audacity," "mystery," and "reality-affirming assertion . . . that God took on eyes, ears, hands, feet, hunger, tears, laughter and the flu . . ." is what I try to hold onto if/when I attend church services these days, singing advent and Christmas hymns from my youth and early career as a (now former) clergy person. I consciously seek out and attempt to celebrate, not just at Christmas time, but daily, the audacity and mystery of the Incarnation in the in the myriad of life encounters.

Thanks so much for the straight forward candor about Christmas, and how, by and large, we have gotten gluttonous and consequently, blinded to the essence of what it means to celebrate divine incarnation into our daily experience. The "audacity," "mystery," and "reality-affirming assertion . . . that God took on eyes, ears, hands, feet, hunger, tears, laughter and the flu . . ." is what I try to hold onto if/when I attend church services these days, singing advent and Christmas hymns from my youth and early career as a (now former) clergy person. I consciously seek out and attempt to celebrate, not just at Christmas time, but daily, the audacity and mystery of the Incarnation in the in the myriad of life encounters.

What a relief to learn that my husband and I are not alone in this view of the absurdity of Christmas in the New Millenia. I abandoned celebrating Christmas in standard American form when Thanksgiving was swamped by the commercial juggernaut the day after.This year I was superbly ticked off by stores bagging any pretext that Thanksgiving dinner is anything more than a warm up meal for a spate of hedonistic shopping. .I would be a very happy woman if I could avoid shoppong at any store that puts up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving (much less Halloween), Now, we treat the holiday as an opportuniity to share a meal with family and friends. I'll look into the underwear, socks and other bare necessities idea - it might restore some old fashioned joy to an otherwise rather bleak time of year.
Thank you for sharing your story.

thank you! as a single parent I have never been able to afford much and the only people who pressure me are the women grandstanding, but not paying for xmas. In fact never paying their own way in any of their history. The association of motherhood can be a profitable way to hide and never grow up, and they seem to be the ones cutting my hair, and cleaning my teeth, and shaming me for not comparing to their $ expectations. My values aren't totaled$ at xmas in that way. To be a pawn is "normal" and destroys adult hearts, what does it do to growing children.

For the moment and hopefully forever, I have gotten over the rebellious feeling to the awareness that there need Christmas. Perhaps this Christmas one person will realize "I want this feeling of joy throughout the year. At that point, they may begin to realize that the joy is the gift of giving to others and begin to give to those who need it. At the same time time whey will realize how special Christmas was as a child as lithely hoped and prayed that they would get that bike they had been refused all year.

Krista, one of your gifts to me this year was Alain de Botton. As he notes, these Christmas rituals, are not only pre-Jesus but pre-God. Gifting is also pre-human. Christmas and gifting-so complicated, so rich, so meaningful. I view it as a time to marvel at the complexity of the universe at every level, particularly my own stratum, as a Great Ape.
I believe we are animals, living in a complex, interdependent world. Gifting is important for the survival of our closest relatives, other primates. It was important for our human ancestors. And it continues to be important to those less fortunate than us.
At this time, some of us live in a miraculous environment of abundance and safety, which allows us the luxury of stepping back to examine the dark side, the pre-narrative side of this pro-social behavior. Unlike our ancestors, we can choose to not follow our group’s gifting expectations and will not die, if ostracized by them. We will not starve, if gifted insufficiently by our leaders to make it through the dark, barren winter. (Not yet, anyway.)
I give thanks for this abundance, freedom and security which allow me to give only as an expression of love, joy and appreciation. WHAT A GIFT!

I've carried these same thoughts for years. Thank you for sharing them here!

What a timely essay; thanks for validating what I have felt for some time but could only recently fulfill. My partner and I have been overwhelmed with health issues this fall. He's dealing with a chronic illness and I've been worn down by obligations; there just weren't enough hours in the day to "fit in Christmas". So here we are, on Christmas eve day with a decorated (artificial) tree, but not much else: no cards sent this year; no gifts for one another (or anybody else); the house is a mess and I'm just recovering from a bout with the flu, and yet....and yet, we're going to make this Christmas (unlike anyone of our others over the past 26 years) into something different; maybe something transcendent.

No Christmas Eve service tonight at our parish because we don't feel well enough and because the music at our parish, frankly, could use improvement. Instead, I'm cooking a modest dinner for us this evening, early to bed and off to a wonderful Christmas Morning service at a parish downtown with wonderful music.

Our "broken-down" Christmas promises to be something very special and restful. My partner says he'll never go back!

Merry christmas Krista and God bless

Merry christmas Krista and God bless

I work with homeless teens in Rochester, MN, on my own.Yes, they need new stocks, underwear, mittens, hats, haircuts...and relationships with healthy adults. They need love and hope. The best gift I can imagine is a world where these children are valued, loved and supported. Thank you for this beautiful article.

Well, it's true that I've been going around grumbling that I hate Christmas this year - mostly because my partner has 6 siblings who have started marrying and having children, and it's been a stressful season time and money-wise and a bad time to figure out small gifts for dozens of people that will show them we thought of them each in particular. So there's that.

But generally, I like Christmas. Thanksgiving and Passover have more spiritual meaning for me, but there's something about Christmas, too, even coming from an anti-religion family. It's a time when we're expected to think about each person we care about in our life and do or get something special for them, at least as I've understood and celebrated it. It's a time to reconnect with my family and actually spend some time together without distraction. I celebrate with just my family, no extended family and not even my partner, who goes home to her family, and it's the only time we're together as we were growing up, repeating traditions that we established as children. It's the one time of year we're It's the only time of year my family stands around the piano and sings together. It's a time when we try to create something special for each other.

It was probably stressful for my mother when we were growing up, since money was tight and she wanted to do a lot for us, and for her that meant mostly spending money, and I wish she hadn't felt that pressure. But there was a deep pleasure for her in doing something a little extravagant and unusual for us, creating that sense of excitement. And there still is, in cooking the meal she thinks is important, in having us all there together. And now that we're older, it's not just her and my dad creating Christmas for us, but all of us creating it for each other and enjoying the feeling of giving.

It was so exciting to see all the presents under the tree this year, even though most of them were from me, my partner, and my sister, and most of them were for my dad and mom - maybe even more so because of this, certainly more satisfying. It was wonderful eating the duck my mom roasted, the bush noel and champagne we always have, and standing around the piano singing through the book of carols we've used forever late into the night. And although I miss my partner and feel a little empty without her, it is a really nice feeling to have things the way they used to be, or even better.

Sorry for the long post, but I felt like Christmas as it's evolved was getting a little overly hated-on. It's important to look outside your family and think about what other people are going through and doing things for them, but there's also a value in looking within your family and doing something special for each other and celebrating being together as well. Is that really so wrong?

Merry Christmas, everyone, however you celebrate it :)

I share some of the same thoughts on the crazy less-than-meaningful Christmas traditions I now feel caught in. Excesses in gift buying and gatherings that are all crammed into the month of December.

I share some of the same thoughts on the crazy less-than-meaningful Christmas traditions I now feel caught in. Excesses in gift buying and gatherings that are all crammed into the month of December.

Thank you, Krista.

We have a beautiful 6 year old daughter, an only child. I found myself sick to my stomach as she opened gift after plastic gift on Christmas Day.

I am not particularly dogmatic about Christmas; but I completely agree that the commercialization of Christmas is the dominant cultural theme. Our daughter is sweet and empathetic. She has no idea that all kids don't have the kind of Christmas that she does. She doesn't know what excessive consumerism is.

My wife and I both have jobs and we provide a safe and loving home for the three of us. However, I felt empty Christmas day, as we opened gifts. I felt embarrassed.

I don't think I would have felt this way two years ago, but something has shifted in me the past 24 months. I don't know what has shifted.

My idea of a great Christmas would be this : Among relatives, we gather around a cozy fire, in a low-lit room, with wine, food and craft beers at hand. We each exchange a gift with one person ( for whom we have drawn a name). The gift should be something we have thought of ourselves that will be cherished by the recipient. For example, my niece is an artist and I asked for a painting of something dear to me. We all tell stories and talk about what we are thankful for and say a prayer for those who have passed.

I am Jewish, as was the child whose birth is celebrated at Christmas. The Christmas myth that most impacted me as a child was that "IF YOU ARE GOOD, Santa will leave you presents." This myth is unkind to Jews, Native Americans, Hindus, Budhists, Muslims and those in a family with limited means. When I returned to school after winter vacation, my classmates always asked what I got for Christmas. I was aware that Santa was a fantasy, but it would be insensitive to share that info with my believing friends. Of course, the answer was "nothing."Was I not good? Why didn't Santa stop? Doesn't he go to EVERY boy's and girl's house? Did I forget to leave cookies?" The whole celebration of Christmas felt unfair to me. I explained that I was Jewish. Some of my classmates assumed that meant "bad." Some thought it meant inferior. From these circumstances, I understood that not everything the general populace believes is necessarily true or worthy of belief.

As a white, Midwestern preacher's kid, I'm sorry. That was me. I was part of your rotten circumstances, and bought into the whole spiel.

I know I can never make up for my history of ignorance. In response this early-winter, before the candy canes flew, I made a point of learning more about Eid ( from one of my daughter's suburban classmates. She was very shy about it, it took a while for her to explain it to me, but she was endearingly articulate. It turned out to be one of my top 5 favorite conversations of my life so far.

Thank you for your post. I'm edified to know that you brought wisdom out of the experience. I hope readers realize the problem still exists..

GOOD FOR YOU, KRISTA--and for your standing up in the assembly!

Your "...overwhelmingly an exercise in excess and trivia" captures (for me) the message of EXODUS 32: 1-6--in its account about the absence (or poverty) of worthy and accountable leadership.

Incidentally, I find EXODUS to be FABULOUS that way. The first time I "got" the story about the staff of Moses and and the staff of Aaron changing into serpents--and gobbling up the serpents (the staffs) of Pharaoh's high priests, I understood the objectives that must be embedded in a decisive staff meeting.... (o;

Worthy celebration of the Incarnation enters deeper into the mystery than the representation of its contest-qualities. Yet the contest so readily spotlights the cosmic stakes--for children and parents together.

Thank you for expressing my own thoughts so beautifully! This from our annual holiday letter..."We are bessed with relatively good health, fine families, good friends, a comfortable home. We know there are too many in our country who are not so blessed. We forego lavish gifts to each other and our families at Christmas so we can give a little more to the charities that help those less fortunate than we are. We're not much help to the economy but we have never liked the total commercialization of Christmas anyway. We love the lights, the coming together of family and friends and the good cheer...and we wish you these things in abundance for the holidays and the coming year!" And I especially liked the part about new underwear and socks - such a great idea for giving...

For personal reasons, I insist on referring to this as Xmas...

In any event, I am less bothered by the gift giving and more bothered by the notion that December is a complete wasteland. You can't get any work done because everyone checks out. We have a culture that presumes everyone "does" Christmas - but what if they are not Christian? Maybe I'm just a Scrooge, but the whole December check out thing just butters my buns.*rantover*

Can we be sure that each one of us is not a bit of God taking on "eyes and ears and hands and feet". As Father Richard Rohr points out, "Christ was not Jesus' last name". Christ means being able to express what we are, the Godness that is our essence. Jesus came to show us what we are capable of and worthy of. That's something to celebrate!

AMEN it takes a village.

Thank you and peace to all. What an adventure to have someone like you share such visions and give energy to positive growth and change.

I don't like the commercialization of Christmas, but I LOVE Christmas and the reminder that God did break through to become one of us. My personal rebellion is to fully enjoy Christmas, the light in the darkness, the liturgies, the shopping for gifts for Angel tree children, whose parents are incarcerated, the long breaks from school (I'm a teacher) that allow me to have a small break to have space for Christmas, all the while fighting urges to rush out on Black Friday, to shop every weekend for obligatory gifts for family and friends because someone has already gifted me. Even the word "Christmas" is religious, with Roman Catholic roots, meaning "Christ Mass." Santa Claus may have become kidnapped by the secular, but he has religious roots which trace back to St. Nicholas, a very real person and bishop who had a very generous spirit. In the Tim Allen movie, "The Santa Claus," one of the elves says, "believing is seeing." God became one of us and for better or worse, Christmas is the reminder of this event, and it shall not be taken away from me.


To clarify what I wrote yesterday. perhaps every one of us is fully God and fully human. Still quite a mystery, but it makes Jesus more of a role model than an idol.

I have listened to you on Sunday mornings for more than a year. This morning, 12/30/12, after the conversation with Dr. Zenn, I went on line to your blog. Never before following anyone's blog, I was amazed at the wealth of information and intellectual challenge I found. I have spent the entire morning listening to past programs which I missed. The Rivlin-Dimenici conservation was brilliant and I wish every member of the Congress and Senate would listen to it. I have become very disenchanted with our grid-lock ridden governmant as well as the commercial celebration of Christmas and every other holiday on the calendar. Kudos to you and your program.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Thank you for the kind words, Virgina. And welcome!

Thank you, Krista. I'm with you 100+%. I have become increasing more irritated with the excess and the stress that accompanies it; however, I am very much in the minority. I hope to have the courage to follow through in the years to come.

I admire your strong stance and well articulated comments on gifts and Christmas. Why we fall for this tradition of gift giving year after year seems to indicate a mindless society of people-bots not aware of right actions, only of fear of rejection and criticism from others should we be honest with each other and ourselves. Thank you for getting me thinking again and acting on this from now on! Suzi

Thank you Krista...So many blessings to you. You are a night light...........

as ever so well said.

This year we had the gift of taking a trip to Peru mid-December. What a gift to ourselves, not just the trip but also the escape from the Christmas machine. No ghastly decorations, no blaring Christmas music and no invitation to buy, buy, buy from retailers. It was a welcome break I had a hard time believing it was actually December, it made Christmas much more palatable.

To keep our Faith alive we need to hear each others stories... I thank you for this story! The waiting, I remember as a 10 year old, was for our Mother to come home Christmas Eve... When she did, she couldn't wait for us to open the gold crosses she bought my Sister and Me. With all the other gifts we'd received that year, that connection with Her urgency for us to open that gift has stayed with me over these past 60 years. That joy she had in the giving was infused in me.

Jesus would be more comfortable with your approach than with what has become "traditional" I'm sure.

Made me tear up. V. Beautiful!

More importantly the story itself is a myth written around the fact that Christ was born in Isreal at about that time. It was distorted by Hebraic early writers to fulfill the Old Testment Phophacy of "The house of David." Was there a Nazareth at that time? Probably not. Would Cesar do a census of tribal centers or waht to know where people actually lived and worked? Would the census be done in planting or harvesting season? Absolutely. Was the nativity text written lon after Mathew and Luke? Yes
Is the story poetical, and are we stuck with it? Almost certainly, yet at some point children and adults need to disillusion themselves and come to terms that the whole story is a beautiful cultural myth.

We did this for the first time this year, placing a donation at one of our local banks for the children of a murdered police officer.
We told our grown and married children that's where the gifts were this year. They said, collectively, "Good idea."

Years ago while serving on staff with a large, upwardly mobile congregation there was a story I heard about the Christmas tea one of the women's circles held. A member of the circle had taken her aging mother who was experiencing symptoms of dementia. Very quietly the older woman sat on the couch sipping her tea and when the assistant minister sat down to visit she looked around the room with a beatific smile, then in a deep southern accent companionably remarked to the pastor, "I just LOUVE a gaudy Christmas." --I agree with Krista that expectations of stuff can suck the life out of this season of mystery. But I have to be honest too, and confess my delight at times when stumbling on shinny surprises in the cold dark season.

One of my life lessons was that when I was a parent to a young child myself I limited the number of gifts opened in the Christmas morning orgy of tissue and tinsel. Over the 12 days of Christmas I tried to leave a trail of gifts back into the post-Epiphany days & ordinary time. One year when my child was about 2 or 3, one of those gifts was a package of bright colored plastic clothes pins that had caught her eye in the grocery store & may have cost $3. Those pins became a favorite toy/tool over several years. We counted them, designed sculptures with them, incorporated them into dress up costumes, held art projects in place for glue to dry with them, and more. They were a true gift of wonder, because they became mechanisms for helping her to connect with the world and others. They were a lesson for me as a parent to know that sometimes the most important gift as a parent is to be present but get out of the way.

Jesus is the center of my life and I honor his birth as a HOLY DAY. You have verbalized beautifully what I have been grappling with for years. My kids are grown but I have younger grandkids and feel compelled to do some gift buying, But I have already been toning it down. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and ability to put things into words. I love your program and find it helpful

Oh yeah, fabuolus stuff there you!

Kick the tires and light the fires, problem officially svoled!

Thank you. My family wonders why I don't get caught up in the holiday hoopla, but I do not feel like a Scrooge, either. I am tired of the media telling me how I should celebrate by buying the latest gizmo. Most people are just going along, riding the current of opinion, instead of thinking about what they are doing, and why tbey are doing it.

I read this in the early morning hours of January 2nd as I was reflecting on how the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas is roughly ten percent of each calendar year -- and that for me it is the most difficult ten percent for all of the reasons Krista so cleary wrote about. In that moment Krista's words became an experience of healing that opened the morning to my practice of meditation, uencumbered by the burden of the season just past. Thank You.

I agree. I haven't celebrated Christmas for years. Thank you for posting this.

I'm ever so grateful you had the position, gumption and wherewithal to voice what a lot of people struggle through. I hated Christmas, too, around the time the Mall of America opened. I refused to walk through the doors for 6 years. I was livid at commerce and its near-total consumption of this specific amazing, enduring, and humanity-shaping story.

I'm imagining Jon Kabat-Zinn as therapist on this anger point. We're in it. It's even part of us. Yes, we often need to back out for a time, yet we can't entirely disengage.

I hope everyone can get tornadically angry at Christmas, drop out of it, and then re-engage, mindfully, maybe even going to the woods to pick out a Christmas tree deliberately. As long as I'm' talking about "stuff," Christmas is useful, it's old, it's part of the family, has been for generations, and it could be beautiful with a new finish on it and in the right place. I put it in the "Keep" pile.

On "Away in a Manger:"

From one mother to another, I'm convinced there is a sacred moment after which one's own first new baby stops crying. Personally, it gave pause in my outward focus to turn inward and realize, repeatedly, tearfully, rendingly that I desperately already needed everything and a thousand things I didn't know about, including more information. That moment I quintessentially needed. I was just getting started on something I had, and still have no idea what it means or how it will turn out, or even, really, how it happened (yes, I'm cognizant of my participation, but it strikes me as kind of incidental to the whole process). That, for me, was total vulnerability, like leaving on a major vacay with nothing but the clothes on my back, on foot. Contrast that self-focused silence against the horrific screams on the other end of his life, Mom. Although I have to agree, on the surface, it can sound pretty insipid. I don't blame the hymn for that.

It's sad that you can't find it in your heart to enjoy Christmas and its "spirit" as it exists in the world now. Yes, it has changed, like all things. But it still brings out the good in many people who don't feel obligated to flaunt their wealth by buying expensive gifts for children who most liklely will never be able to afford such things themselves. It is the paradox of King Wencelas that feting him actually just made him more acutely aware of what he had been missing, deepening his misery. The stereotypical "old lady" says, as always, that "things just aren't lwhat they used to be." True enough.

I think I'll follow your lead, somewhat, and get some children the socks, coats, and new underwear that they want and need. After all, I'm not trying to impress anyone, so why would I buy or donate expensive clothes, assuaging my conscience, perhaps, but intensifying their suffering?

My birthday is Christmas and have only once or twice (celebrating on a different day) experienced what it might be like to have a day dedicated to your birth. I loved this article, it made me feel less guilty about celebrating X-mas for my 9 month old daughter this year. I felt guilty for not putting up a tree and lights, wanting her to experience this magical moment. It was hard to cave into the "ritual" of x-mas but it was for my daughter. How does one day highjack our collective attention to the point it has become this all consuming affair? From my perspective 20% of x-mas is the spirit of Joy, Gratitude, Giving and all that jazz the other 80% has gone off track and into the mall.
All I know is people get so consumed on Christmas day focusing on what they did or didn't get or how much the person liked the gift you gave, that they can't remember to wish their friend or family member a happy birthday and most of the time don't even realize they even forgot.
So my anger grows which I try to release every year. Why should I go broke every year around my birthday, trying to buy everyone presents who often forget to even say, Happy Birthday. Is that not what Christmas is all about, celebrating someones birthday? I wonder how Christ would view how people celebrate his April birthday in December. Looking back I should have celebrated my birthday as a child on Christ's real birthday in April.