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If You Don't Celebrate Christmas, You're Not Alone — and It's OK

by S. RufusDecember 21, 2018
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evgenyatamanenko/Thinkstock

Yuletide music, words and images are ... everywhere.

Social media is all snowclad-landscape inspirational quotes and Santa-suited-stripper and cigar-smoking-snowman memes. Mainstream media is a sparkly, frosty fusillade of high-tech snowflakes, rapping reindeer, beaming perfect families and (sometimes talking) tinseled trees.

And real-world neighborhoods shimmer by day with JOY and NOËL and gingerbread men stenciled on storefront windows and by night with strings and swirls of twinkling lights.

It's so pervasive and assertive in its red-green-snow-gold-silverness, its dazzling ornaments dangling mesmerically from everything, its family-home-happiness-reverence refrains on constant repeat as to seem all-embracing, universal, ours.

Which it is. Except when it's not.

For a wide span of reasons, lots of us here in the Western world don't celebrate Christmas. And that's okay.

And yes, such reassurance is appropriate, because the fusillade for all its good points also wields such force that not accepting it, feeling excluded from it or alienated or even upset by it can slash our self-esteem, because we feel like party-pooping anti-merry killjoys and/or Martians marooned on a distant planet and/or isolated unloved losers with no celebrations to attend.

When seeing our ex-officemates trimming their trees on Instagram surrounded by smiling kids makes us sad, some of us blame ourselves.

Because we tend to blame ourselves for everything — especially for being what we think is weird and bringing (we think) others down.

But just as Christmas cannot help but happen and multiple industries plus nearly everyone we know chooses to cherish, mark, and market it, we who are for whatever reasons outside its embrace cannot help that.

Strange as this sounds to say: It's not our fault.

Growing up in a Jewish home — not deeply religious, but kosher — I loved Christmas carols and TV Christmas cartoons, which I watched enchantedly/guiltily while being warned in growly grownup tones: You know that's not our holiday.

We celebrated Chanukah in all its brave light-conquers-darkness sweetness, but I was ashamed for wanting what my pals had, and the people on TV. Because their holiday echoed across America, and need never (as mine did) be explained.

Traces of that shame still persist.

Others among us hate themselves at Yuletide because joy and jollitude feel not like mere words this month but rather like fierce commands — which they cannot obey, as if that was anyone's fault.

Others hate themselves for not believing — however hard they might try — in the story and entities on which Christmas is based.

But hark. Feeling unwarmed by the specifics of a certain holiday does not render us empty-souled and spiritless.

We must just identify what our actual holidays are, mine and yours, and — even if all alone — celebrate those.

This will help us feel less left-out at Yuletide time, less envious of those whose memories and loyalties and faith in its features burn bright.

Observed alone or shared, our holidays might deepen any season, might occur more than once per year — weekly, say — or twice per decade.

Our holidays might spring from and celebrate spirit, family, history, victory, memory, nationality, culture or whatever else moves us.

Seeing that special friend who lives a thousand miles away: holiday. First summer storm: holiday. Iggy Pop's birthday: holiday. Mahashivaratri or Tanabata: holidays. Electric-hearing-aid-invention anniversary: holiday. Beach days: holidays. Established holidays we think are underrated, such as Chilean Independence Day, the Ides of March or Arbor Day: holiday 2.0, reclaimed.

Break out the gumbo, leopard masks and ocarinas. Let us know our holidays and name them. Let us compose equinoctal carols and make Oktoberfest hats.  


S. Rufus is the author — under the byline Anneli Rufus — of several books including Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself (Tarcher Penguin 2014) and continues on the path of addressing self-esteem.


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