Anne Eller offers this week’s Advent reflections as she shares her memories of Christmas when she was a child and her hopes for Christmas at this stage in her life.
Without the magic, Christmas feels like just one more set of things to do and an opportunity for retail stores to make a buck. Christmas decorations are out with the Halloween pumpkins and costumes, and everybody is tired of “Jingle Bells” before the season even begins. Materialism is rampant. Parents feel the need to buy the latest Apple product or the newest Nike Air Jordans, and children feel the strain of keeping up with their friends. Black Friday now starts on Thursday afternoon, before the Thanksgiving turkey has been digested. Everyone’s emotions, including mine, are on a roller coaster. Everyone, including me, has expectations and obligations. Everyone, including me, is exhausted. The newscasts are full of conflict, death, suicides, and loneliness, which all seem to intensify during this time of year.
I begin asking myself in November—can I get by without decorating this year? No, it’s my turn to have my friends over, and it doesn’t feel right having them during this season with no decorations. So into the attic I go, twisting and stooping to haul out Christmas decorations and taking hours to put them out. The Frazier fir that I brought back from the mountains and that worked so hard to fulfill its Christmas tree role won’t stand up straight; fir needles are stuck in the carpet (I will still be finding them in June); the lights are all tangled up or won’t work. Sometimes it takes hours to find that one bulb that needs changing, or most likely from exasperation the whole string ends up in the landfill, becoming one more contribution to our environmental decline. My usually tranquil and spacious yoga/meditation room is a wreck. It becomes a place where presents await wrapping and ornaments and lights wait to go on the tree—hardly a conducive place for yoga or meditation, which I need worse than ever during this time—not that I make time for it.
My Dad always loved Christmas and always wants his children and his grandchildren to come “home” on Christmas Eve. As my Dad and stepmother get older, it becomes harder and harder for them to keep their traditions. I have noticed that Dad has relinquished his role of giving out the presents to my two nephews, although we insist that he keep wearing his Santa Claus hat. I am the one that says “ho ho ho” to him on Christmas morning, which he used to do in his bass voice from his bedroom as a signal that it was time to get up. I am witness to my stepmother’s arthritic pain from stress and overwork, and detect the beginnings of loneliness my Dad anticipates after everyone else leaves. Oh the guilt I feel when I get ready to leave the day after Christmas, and Dad says with a trembling chin and teary eyes, “I know Christmas is over when you leave.”
During the season of Advent, daily meditations from members of the Pullen community are being posted online. Subscribe by email at www.pullen.org/category/meditation.