Writings

Christmas


Since I am one of those people who gets childishly delighted whenever the subject of Christmas comes up I am going to spend the next couple of days talking about it
Christmas
Christmas makes me giddy and brings out my inner little girl. For me these holy holidays were never really about the star and the baby. I sang in the church choir for a few years during childhood and did get a bit weepy around the existence of Jesus, all his forgiveness and courage, plus the fact that he was given birth to by a virgin. Hmmm, mmm...I'll keep that one in mind for my next entry on sex. But other than that, as for most of us, it became mostly about the commercial hoopala. And it still is. Shopping in any other time of the year, has kind of lost it's glow for me, but during Christmas, well if I had a yearly salary I would not hesitate to spend at least a fourth of it to commemorate the birth of Santa, sorry, Jesus.
Growing up in Sweden definitely set the tone for my enthusiasm about it. It's a time when daylight is sparse in that long country up north, and in the north of that northern country there is no daylight at all. Imagine that. Then there is the cold, sometimes as much as -30 where my parents live. The combination of the two makes you just want to sleep and eat and watch holiday specials on the big screen TV. Outdoorsy types, our Swedish friluftsare, excluded of course. And children, who get a kick out of not feeling their hands and toes in order to create the perfect snow man. Oh...well, let's just say that it's people like me who get pale and fat in the winter. When December has reached to the height of darkness and nose freezes, Christmas swoops in like a reindeer in shining red armour and offers freedom from school and work so you can spend the whole day inside, not even once touching the outside. It always offers tasty food and beverage, an obscene quantity of sugar based treats and then the culmination of it all, Christmas eve, which brings those beautifully wrapped presents that really mean nothing except more, but still warm our hearts for the thought. It keeps us Swedes going all the way until New years, when there's fireworks and champagne. Afterwards awaits a couple of dull months which feel endless once the sweet echo of Christmas has faded out. Where winter is just winter. So for me as for most Swedes, I think, Christmas was, and is significant.

After growing up in the magical Christmas card setting of Sweden I brought all this enthusiasm with me when I moved to New York. Imagine the blown up proportions it took there. Christmases feel like an old black and white movie until you come to the land of super sizing. From Thanksgiving on, the city of New york looks like the technicolor cartoon version of Wonkas chocolate factory. The city gets a Japanese style upgrade, with everything sparkling with light, fake snow and lavish window displays. Christmas songs old and new playing in every possible media station, to provide the perfect soundtrack for all your holiday needs. All this commercial frenzy highlights and shows in stark contrast the other reality of this big nation, where this season for a disturbing amount of many means not having, not eating and perhaps even not surviving, if the weather is harsh. The grandiosity of the Christams spectacle in this land of plenty gives you a very wide, open eyed experience of the holidays. At the same time that we get to witness the greatest Christmas show on earth, we're also constantly reminded of it's folly and price tag.
Fortunately, the inhabitants of this melting pot also have super sized feelings, and one thing that is heartwarming, is that these holidays, which in NY also includes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, brings out generosity in spirit. Many New yorkers volunteer their time to soup kitchens and shelters, There are a lot of charities that collect and distribute presents for those who can't afford any, the soldiers of the Salvation army carol in every corner to feed and house those without, and whether this grand display of generosity comes from purity of heart or holiday guilt is immaterial. It's there and it's good.
This generosity of spirit is of course not exclusive to over there. As life is becoming more global, poverty and suffering is as well. When I left Sweden in the nineties I was perhaps too young and ignorant to see it, but now the sober more harsh reality of my beloved adopted country is in plain view. I now see a lot of homelessness, beggars and people on the outskirts of society. This fact, albeit sad, on the upnote also lets me witness how awareness of human suffering brings out kindness and empathy in people, and I would say that at least one of every christmas present in many Swedish households, is an envelope that contains water, nutrition and education for those in need. So whatever we feel about Santa swooping in and stealing a bit of Jesus' thunder, I would say that the feeling of giving that the Santa tradition has installed, coupled with the Jesus role model of goodness, has provided us with an exemplary partnership, that brings forth our kindness, generosity and compassion.
Jesus+Santa=A Merry Christmas for all!

 

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