Long ago, in a childhood far, far away, Christmas meant one thing and one thing only for me: presents. I recognized very early on that there was no worth to be found in the Christian residue of this holiday nor in its manipulatively sentimental trappings. I was neither a true believer nor a witless consumer-in-training. But, if you wanted to give me free things, I was certainly in the market of taking them. Call it a Yuletide Third Side. Hey, that rhymed!
And that’s where Christmas starts for the young. Being well-grounded in rational self-interest, most children know full well that the best part of this time of year is the acquisition of goods — in this case, toys, candy, games, and whatever else provides immediate pleasure. Lights are pretty and oddly distracting, seeing relatives is fun for a limited period, and all of those goofy Christmas songs might have a temporary appeal, but the chief objective is waking up that morning and ripping through the wrapping to get to those marvelous treats under the tree. All else is nonsense.
But, age and subsequent exposures to this observance start to separate folks. In most cases, the presents become less and less impressive, often turning to more practical items such as shirts, socks, and various parentally-chosen apparel. Familial obligations get in the way of burgeoning independence. Santa is really Jesus in winter gear. At this point, a juncture is met for most: either continue with celebrating Christmas out of habit and/or conformity, or abandon it because it’s outlived its usefulness. For some of the latter camp, you can toss in an admonition of religious beliefs as well. Once the payoff is gone, there really is little point in playing along.
I’m certainly in there somewhere. I was the kid who snuck out to a pitch-black living room every Christmas Eve, flashlight in hand, opening slightly each gift to see what I’d be playing with the next day. Upon waking, it was a celebration of gluttony and greed to beat the band: consuming candy at a fevered rate and sizing up the sheer quality of loot. The remainder of the day would be spent hiding away from annoying grown-ups and enjoying each and every toy I’d gained. And that’s just about every participating child on the planet, whether Mom and Dad like it or not. If these parents allowed themselves to think back that far, they’d see their former selves in their offsprings’ eyes to a shocking degree — before their own parents’ attempt to punish the natural instincts out of them.
When I was a teenager, I went through the requisite rebellion stage. If you could have tolerated it, I no doubt would have filled your ears with all sorts of rants and railings against Christmas. Of course, I would have been mostly right, but I would have also been engaging in unnecessary behavior. There’s a moment when we (or just some of us) grow up and realize that so many of the adversaries we’d accumulated in our youth were largely self-appointed. It’s an illuminating moment, one so rational and so clear, there couldn’t possibly be any turning back. In the end, these bogeymen are pointless, ineffectual, and lacking in any real power within your lives. Like Sean Connery in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” when he turns to his son and says, “let it go,” I too got the message and moved on. A long time ago.
Some might say, “Well, of course, you’re wrong! It’s really a pagan celebration and the Christians stole it from us. So you can still participate because it wasn’t their holiday to begin with.” That’s nice. That’s also a half-truth. While the non-Christian aspects of Christmas gain more and more ground (as I’d written in my first book, Bearing The Devil’s Mark, available on Amazon, go and buy it, etc.) and I certainly applaud them for what they are, there is still just enough residual religiosity (be it Christian or — GASP! — “pagan”) that it still doesn’t endear me to participation. Of course, I also know that there are quite a few secular folks out there who’ll make any excuse they can to be a part of it all, not wanting to admit that they can’t shake the indoctrination, can’t separate leftover feelings from childhood events, or can’t really break away from conventional culture. So for some, it becomes the warm security blanket they’ve always known. To quote my colleague, Blanche Barton: “We don’t need to be comforted; we prefer the invigorating, bracing wind of truth and terror.”
And these days, there’s also the kitsch factor. Whether an “ironic” practice or not, there has been this increasing trend of embracing all the trappings — the tackier, the better — from Christmas, while dismissing the “reason for the season.” Could be fun, I suppose, but the pervasiveness — the trendiness — of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just enough that, while I’m glad it brings people a sense of dorky fun and frivolity, it’s just not my bag. Except for the cookies, of course. You can ship me a bag of homemade Christmas cookies anytime you’d like.
But, of course, I am a Satanist. And it would be fair of people to ask me if I observe the Winter Solstice. In my own way, I do. I love this time of year, particularly how beautiful my home state of Vermont becomes once it is covered in snow — the very element that drives most people into their homes so that I can enjoy my surroundings. I sometimes go for long walks, exclusively in the dead of winter, finding the wind and frost exhilarating and mentally stimulating. As a result, it is my most productive time of the year. Heck, all of my favorite clothes are winter clothes! You might even find me out in the Canadian wilderness, snowshoeing with close friends, or maybe just enjoying the view of a peopleless snowscape out my living room window. Winter is easily my favorite season and the Solstice is certainly a social marker for that.
Upon checking, it seems I had some other things to say about Christmas last year, too! Read that, if you’d like.
That is all. Bring on the cookies.