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Current Rants and Recent Rambles

12-09-06: 'Holiday Stress' Post to the ClayMates:

Whether you participate in the holiday activities or not there's bound to be some level of stress. One might think it odd that stress can come from not participating in holiday activities but let me tell you the peer pressure is intense. My husband and I don't participate in secular manifestations of the winter holidays. It's not that we're all "Bah Humbug" about it it's both economical and philosophical that we celebrate in ways that are not stressful.

All the activities that take place around us are made up by somebody a long time ago. Retail businesses have a vested interest in making us feel the need to spend money. Family gatherings can have their stressful moments because often it is like the old saying, "God made your friends and the Devil made your relatives."

Just as all the holiday activities and the expectations that when not met lead
to disappointment, we can free ourselves from being slaves to expectations we absorb from our cultural environment. We can make our own traditions. When my two younger sons were little we held "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" parties. A regular birthday party where we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Our "gifts" for giving were watching movies, reading books, and talking about the teachings of Jesus and yes, we're Muslims. It's difficult not to be exposed to all the Christmas energy, so we'd participate in ways that fit in with our beliefs. We would make ornaments to hang from the ceiling in a tree shape since we couldn't afford to buy a tree. There's family activities like making cookies with the children so they have something to do and learn how to cook in the process. I'd sneak in learning about fractions by cutting the recipes in half. "So if we need 3/4ths cup of sugar and we're only making half a batch of these cookies, how much sugar do we really need?"

Since my older sister and her family had more money to spend on the gift giving I figured I'd take my sons over there to visit the day after Christmas or a couple of days after, so they didn't feel bad during the "Shark Frenzy" of gift unwrapping that they weren't a part of. The secular manifestations of Christmas are hard on the poor. So I opted out because of economical reasons. That didn't mean we couldn't have fun or celebrate the birth of Jesus. It didn't mean we couldn't give our energies to those who were more poor than we were. It meant we needed to rethink the whole process and celebrate in a way that left us feeling enriched in our hearts.

We, my younger sons and I, created our own winter holiday tradition. One of them was reviewing the icons of the secular manifestation of Christmas and trace them back to their pre-Christian roots.

Where did the yule log come from?
"The origins of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Midwinter festivals in
which the Norsemen indulged..."

Why do we bring trees into the house?

Where did Santa Claus/Father Christmas come from?

Where does Winter Solstice come into the picture?
"Christmas combines Christian religious ceremonies with traditions and customs mainly influenced by ancient winter festivals, such as Yule and Saturnalia. Popular secular traditions include emphasis on themes such as family, goodwill, giving and compassion."

Who the heck brought in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? 1939 Montgomery Ward department stores created him.

The celebration of Christmas wasn't done in the early days of America. It was considered pagan and a vestige of Popary. As late as 1847 there were no
Christmas holidays in American colleges.

It's all made up out of the brains of those pesky humans of the past.

We can make up our own celebrations based on what time, energy, funds and values we have. If spending money is out of the question then volunteering to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen would be a wonderful way to realize that being poor is really relative. If your family makes you crazier than you are left to your own devices, there's a lot of old folks at nursing homes who never get a visitor at all. Even a visit from a stranger, on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, someone to talk to, someone who is willing to hold your hand, that's a gift that's worth a million dollars to someone who is lonely. I visit my elderly Jewish neighbors on Christmas, sit and kibitz with them for a while. That's my gift to them.

The best gift we can give is our love, time, energy and compassion. It's a gift
that can be re-gifted without guilt. It's a gift that grows each time it's
passed along. As for me, I'm making cookies to give to my neighbors. My family knows I opted out of the Frenzy of Christmas in a secular way. My Mother-in-Law, who I cc'd on this post, and I will exchange email celebrating her Savior. Hi Mommy Michal! It's a time for reflection, love and kindness. We made up our own traditions that fit in our budget and our beliefs.

So if you're finding yourself stressed out this holiday season check the links
below and they'll help you gain some sense of control and calm in your life.

All this is my winter holiday gift to all of you and it is given with all the
love I have for all of you.


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