Saturday, December 24, 2011

So what do Pagans do for Christmas?

"So what do Pagans do for Christmas?"

The question is indicative of deep thought and a willingness to accept. Not the words -- those could go either way -- but the tone, and the fact that he has acknowledged my family's religion at all. Old family friend usually avoids topics like this. I am touched he has asked.

I open my mouth, and I close it.

Christmas is religious, but it is cultural and societal and traditional, too, and I love it. Snow and puffs of cold breath and other people's lights twinkling through the trees, I love.

In my family, traditions are based loosely on survival. Where can we get the best deal for the most of us to be fed and protected and happy? Free continental breakfast and enough room for everyone to sleep. We usually get together at a hotel near my sister's house, and we swim and splash in the hot tub and eat at the Chinese restaurant, and we forget, annually, that nothing is open on Christmas Eve, and me and a sister or two go out looking for anything that's open that sells any type of sustenance, and we come back with gas station food. And everyone is hungry and cold and a touch cranky and this, too, I love.

This is one of those off years when none of us can afford it. A handful of us will gather at my sister's, but when one of us is missing, part of us all is missing, so we won't be whole. My sister can't make it in from the city. We weren't able to bring her here in time.

"So what do Pagans do for Christmas?"

We gather like the rest of you, and be together, and speak our true language, a language of half-quotes and loose references that only family understands. Only together do we not have to explain, to conform, to work at fitting. Only together can we be us.

Before the hotel tradition, back when we were all at home, the tradition was that we put up a tree -- I wonder how my parents always, always made this happen -- and my grandma piled on us a passel of well-meaning presents slightly disconnected from our personalities, and we would find ways to amuse ourselves with them that were not necessarily included in the instruction manuals. My parents gave presents, too, always managing something meaningful and sweet.

Twelve -- they gave me a bucket filled with grooming supplies. Didn't have a horse, just wanted one so bad I couldn't stand it and they got me things to make me feel a little closer to my goal.

Seventeen -- a little red box with a tiny gold cross inside. Yes, a cross, with none of us having figured out what religion we were, except that we all loved the X-Files and Scully wore a cross and damn if we didn't all adopt our mannerisms from television the way the (diagnosed) autistic members of our family tend to do. A little note accompanied the cross: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for."

There are years, like this one, when I have little faith.

But it is a temporary situation, like a waning moon that is sure to wax, to bring new holidays and new rituals and new traditions to blend with the old. A gleam of light on a motel pool and a train drawing ever closer, and a Go-Mart bag full of crackers and cheese. The family will gather and the snow will fall and we are all going to be okay.

"So what do Pagans do for Christmas?"

The best we can.


Granny Kate said...

Perfectly said.

Anonymous said...

Well done...