I just read an article about those who are in COVID-induced isolation from family for Christmas this year. It included a heartbreaking quote from a young woman who, having just tested positive for the coronavirus, will not be able to spend time with her family, as she’d planned, in keeping with CDC guidelines designed to keep all of us from getting it.
“I wouldn’t have gone to Christmas parties or bars if I had known,” said Charlotte Wynn, 24, who recently tested positive. “Those things are essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things if you don’t get to spend Christmas with your family.”
I detected a lot of unnecessary sadness in that quote, and I say that as the father of a recently-tested-positive 20-something daughter of my own, Kristina, who I won’t be able to see on Christmas, because she’s in isolation, too. Kristina’s seems as sad as Wynn is, but I think both of them should give themselves a present this Christmas that we could all use:
Let’s free ourselves from the confines of the Christmas calendar. We can celebrate Christmas any day. December 25 is a date that drives consumerism, not a “holy day” as many faiths insist when a savior was born to a virgin one starry night in the middle of a stable.
That statement may make you think that I’m at least a hair anti-religious, but I’m not. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t listen to at least a little gospel music, which I’ve been leaning into even more since we’ve been at war with the devil’s virus.
But I believe that, between the words of the Bible, there are several universal truths which are reflected in the stories therein. And I believe that the date of our main annual yuletide celebration, December 25, is a completely arbitrary one.
I made that comment to my youngest sister, Susan, the other day, and her immediate reaction was swift and fierce, as Sue’s reactions tend to be. She’s fairly religious, so she didn’t like me calling the birth of Christ “arbitrary.”
The only problem with her reaction was this: I didn’t.
What I said was, independent of your religious beliefs, there is no hard evidence that the baby Jesus was born on December 25. That date was chosen for the celebration to coincide with the Winter Solstice. In modern times, it’s a deadline that the retail world loves, designed for us to pack the streets and empty our bank accounts so that as early as Christmas Eve, your loved ones can open and enjoy that air fryer, iPhone, or cozy matching set of pajamas on the actual “holiday.” (Lately, my family has started ripping open presents a day earlier, on Christmas Eve, and it’s been kinda fun.)
If we free ourselves up from the calendar, in addition to giving and opening gifts whenever the heck we want, we can have the turkey and dressing (my house), the honey baked ham (the house I grew up in), or the chitterlings (in no house I will ever eat at) whenever we want.
Each December, I stockpile a few extra turkeys in my freezer, and I have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with homemade cranberry sauce, several times each year. I tend to do it quarterly, to remind myself that the last Thursday in November doesn’t have the license on being thankful for the blessings in my life.
Let’s do the same thing with Christmas. Charles Dickens himself, in perhaps the most beloved Christmas story ever, admonished us to keep Christmas in our hearts the whole year through. And believe me, there’s nothing like the smile you’ll get from a loved one when when you give them a beautifully wrapped package to rip open on January-whatever.
Let’s back away from the calendar and do the right thing this Christmas, especially as we’re still managing rampant virus variants, and limit our in-person family and friend interactions to those who are vaccinated, boosted, and asymptomatic. We can celebrate Christmas in a more traditional way when we’re past this.