My Reason for the Season
As we drive through the neighborhoods here in North Orange County, we see mostly secular Christmas decorations, lights and trees and snowmen and Santas. Occasionally, we see a nativity scene made out of lights or large lighted plastic shepherds gathered around a small lighted baby Jesus. Two blocks from our house, Santa and his sleigh circle above Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in the manger. Friday night, Muri and I took a walk around Eastlake Village, a nearby community on a small lake that goes all out with Christmas lights. At one house, life-sized wise men, shepherds and animals were gathered around the holy family on the patio overhead while an early Christmas party went on beneath.
As a spiritual-but-not-religious, almost Jewish, former Catholic who still loves Christmas, the nativity stirs more mixed feelings in me than anything else in the season. As a child, I loved the Christmas story and believed it with no doubts. We always had a nativity scene in our house, and my Mom had very definite views on how a creche should be used to decorate a yard. Santa flying overhead was definitely not OK, nor were lighted figures. The pairing of Santas or Disney characters and a nativity scene still strikes me as sacrilegious, a most peculiar notion for a non-believer. Nativity scenes like those on twenty worst nativity sets may delight my Curmudgeon but make the better part of me cringe. I respect those who seek to keep Christ in Christmas or who tastefully bring The Reason for the Season into their decor. As a child, we went caroling every year and in a mostly Italian Catholic town, emphasis was on carols like Adeste Fideles and Silent Night. My favorite is still Oh Holy Night.
I can rail against the commercialization of the holiday or political correct greetings with the best Christian. I try to make it a season of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men. But we don’t tend to the religious aspect of the holiday in our home and we also light the menorah for Chanukah.
My mother loved Christmas. She’d literally light up as the day approached and scurry around on Christmas Eve making pies and dishes for Christmas Day, filling the house with delightful aromas … and memories. Dad would go out to collect the Christmas gifts from our family, taking me along once I stopped believing in Santa … one of my best memories of my Dad … and when we got home, he and Mom would go off to midnight Mass. A few years after my Mom died, I tried going to midnight Mass at the local Catholic Church in her memory … I thought it might reignite some of my spiritual connection to the day. It didn’t. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. There are probably those who think I’ll eventually find my way home and look upon that Nativity as I did as a child. I don’t think that’s likely but I have a lovely connection to the holiday and a place in my heart for Christmas that snuggles right up to my spirituality, keeping it warm. Although it’s not The Reason for the Season, it’s Mine.