So, around this time of year, social media is saturated with the mention of the holidays. Because it’s generally thought of as cool to be sardonic, cynical, and to scoff at the things so common to most Americans, I see a lot of mockery, and snubbing of all things holiday. Especially feast days, and gifting traditions.
While I certainly find the overkill of marketing and commercialism around this season very irksome and intrusive, it’s no different for me than the rest of the year. I avoid magazines, commercials, even radio because I loathe ads. The saturation of capitalism and shilling really bugs me. I get it when other people have similar gripes and jabs about that.
What I don’t really get, or think is cool, is the downright dumping on the traditions that have been around for centuries. The winter feast, whether it’s called yule or, Christmas, or anything else, is not something Americans invented so that they could be fat gluttons. It isn’t an eating contest, and it’s not meant to be forced familial obligation.
These traditions are eons old, and cross cultures and continents. They served a purpose. I’m going to tell you why feasting communally still deserves your reverence.
Back in the day, where there were communities, villages, hamlets, townships, etc. There would always be a feast at the end of harvest and the beginning of the long winter, especially where winters were harsh. From the earliest civilizations to the recent pioneer past of America, folks came out of the woodwork, brought what they could contribute, and gathered for a social meal with the neighbors and community. Some of these folks would be old or ill or very small, and might not survive the winter. Some would freeze or starve. So the feast served the purpose of getting to see everyone, some for the last time. They also served the important need to fatten up before lean times set in. A fat family was a warm, hardy family. So they gathered, ate, drank, visited, and sometimes there were gifts or treats, usually for the children.
Of course, we all know how it has evolved. We don’t all go to church, or commune in the town hall.Nobody really needs to fatten up, we have coats, and heaters, and butt warmers in our car seats. Most Americans get together with the family closest to them in distance, and eat things that are just what every one else is supposedly eating, and then there is football, dog shows, and shopping.
The joy, the reverence, the purpose and meaning is gone. Now its about obligations and habits and plodding through the holiday for the sake of itself. That is probably why, despite the fact that some people mouth off about how commercial and excessive the holiday has become, will get in their cars, drive to grandparents house, eat canned cranberries and green bean casseroles, and then complain about their racist uncle the whole ride home. People will bag on stores for being open on Thanksgiving, but then go shopping anyhow.
If you hate the holidays, if you dread the familial stuff, if you hate the consumerism, if you want more from your time off of work than green bean casserole, I have a suggestion: give it meaning.
If the holidays have become just another obligation for you I invite you to take charge of your precious time, find what about the season speaks to you, and delete the stuff that just sucks at your soul. Stop spending your only paid days off a year with people you don’t like, eating food you don’t care for, spending hours of time driving or watching television that might actually kill you with boredom.
Like our ancestors, find a way to see the people who matter to you the most and make sure they know you love them in case you don’t get to see them again. Fill your belly with things that make you hardy and strong. Use your time to relax or rest or play or create. Don’t spend it in a car or a mall or line.
I used to hate the holidays. Volatile meals of dubious and unpredictable quality, with people I wouldn’t have been even friends with if it weren’t for blood relation. Long drives, awkward and costly gift exchanges, usually some yelling, often fighting, and then I would be home, alone, and bummed out. I thought I hated the holiday itself, but really I was just wasting them.
I decided to stop wasting that precious time and started going to gatherings with chosen family. Making dishes that were off the traditional menu, but that fed my soul. I stopped buying something cheap for everyone I felt obligated to, and started making gifts with love. Now, I LOVE the holidays. I love the communal activities, the sumptuous feasts, the lovingly gifted items, the people, the songs, the history and tradition of celebration. I’ve never looked back and I could never have it any other way.
So, please know, if I spend my holiday with you, it’s because I value you, I want your quality time, I seek your company to perfect my holiday. I hope I do the same for you.