Christmas in my family was more stress than it was a celebration.
We moved from Saskatchewan to British Columbia when I was seven and a lot more changed than just our address.
We had gone to church when I was younger and I just started learning about who Jesus was and the true meaning of Christmas in Sunday school. After the move, we didn’t go anymore. As with most changes, there was no explanation, it just happened and I learned not to question things. And even though I didn’t realize it until much later, it did leave a hole in me.
So, this took out the spiritual part of Christmas from my life and just left the material commercial one. I stopped believing in Santa but tried to pretend for the sake of all the older people in my life who wanted to keep it alive. There was always something eating inside of me that this day was not about presents, big dinners and an imaginary man in a red suit.
When I went back to Saskatchewan for Grade 12 to the school where my Dad graduated, I found some of the answers to what was missing. It was a private school run by the Luthern church (even though my family on both sides was Anglican) and we were “encouraged” to attend church. I boarded at the school and when I wasn’t staying with family members on the weekends I would go to services at the church right across the street. Here I learned about advent and hungered for more information on the true meaning of Christmas. However, I went home for the holidays so was not able to attend Christmas eve and day services.
After graduation, I went back home and things pretty well went on as usual. The family would get together for what always felt more like a command performance than a family celebration. My sister felt obligated to buy super presents for everyone and then she and her two sons would eat meagerly for months before and after to pay for them. I would want to buy something that would really show how much I loved my family but the gifts would always seem to miss the mark. I didn’t get that it wasn’t me, it was that in my heart I knew this wasn’t what the holiday was all about.
When I started being hospitalized for depression, I met a young woman who was also dealing with emotional challenges but there seemed to be something different about her. She didn’t seem to have the “empty heart” that many of us felt.
She was a Christian and held onto the hope found through Jesus Christ. We became good friends and though it took her awhile, she got me not only to come to church but to give my heart to the Lord. I felt so blessed that He used her in this way. After that, I was able to partake in the real meaning of Christmas and it felt so good.
However, my family was still clinging to traditions that no one believed in or wanted but couldn’t let go of. In later years after my Mom passed away, my sister told me that there would be no family Christmas, Easter, birthday celebrations once Dad passed, and there hasn’t been.
Even my Hubby’s family have stopped giving gifts to any of the adults (we drew names because there are just under 20 people!) so we can just enjoy a good family dinner together.
While I am sad in some ways, pulling away from those traditions has freed me to focus my attention on the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I don’t get to church so I am missing advent. However, I found a great advent study online and am following along with that. A good friend texted that our pastor prayed for us today and feel so blessed to be remembered.
Hubby is off on Christmas Eve so we are looking forward to attending one of the services that evening and I couldn’t be happier.
Because we are trying to get our place ready for sale, and a lot of our stuff (including decorations) is in storage, we are not even putting up a tree this year. I plan to make some gluten free baking this year; however, I am not doing all the baking for gifts that I have done in the past. And, it looks like it will be just me and Hubby on Christmas Day and even though I always wanted family around on Christmas, I am looking forward to the quiet day.
So, I guess the bottom line is that Jesus IS my reason for the season. While the rest of it can be nice, this year I am looking forward to the simplicity of it all.