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Taking Back Christmas


John Grisham wrote a book called SKIPPING CHRISTMAS. Amazon.com reports: “John Grisham turns a satirical eye on the overblown ritual of the festive holiday season, and the result is Skipping Christmas, a modest but funny novel about the tyranny of December 25. Grisham's story revolves around a typical middle-aged American couple, Luther and Nora Krank. On the first Sunday after Thanksgiving they wave their daughter Blair off to Peru to work for the Peace Corps, and they suddenly realize that ‘for the first time in her young and sheltered life Blair would spend Christmas away from home.’ “Luther Krank sees his daughter's Christmas absence as an opportunity. He estimates that ‘a year earlier, the Luther Krank family had spent $6,100 on Christmas,’ and have ‘precious little to show for it.’ So he makes an executive decision, telling his wife, friends, and neighbors that ‘we won't do Christmas.’ Instead, Luther books a 10-day Caribbean cruise. But things start to turn nasty when horrified neighbors get wind of the Krank's subversive scheme and besiege the couple with questions about their decision.” My friend Dessa Byrd Reed, author of the poetry books THE BUTTERFLY TOUCH and SEVEN BRIDGES, prefers nontraditional holidays. She wrote in THE DESERT WOMAN that as a widow she often spends time with friends over the holidays, take trips, or simply goes out to eat on Christmas (not necessarily turkey). It’s easy to see why, especially if you grew up with traditional Christmas expectations of warmth, family, and usually, expressions of faith. Christmas is under attack in this country. I think it was my high school AP Government class that asked us about cases involving removing Nativity scenes from public places. At the risk of revealing my ripe old age of 32, that was in 1990.

First we had the trend of saying Xmas for Christmas. Then Christmas sales started way back before Halloween. Now, the holiday season is more about parties, overeating and drinking, and commercialism than expressing spirituality, in particular and especially the Christian faith.

The secularists don’t much like church, whether because of parents who used religion as an excuse for too-strict disciplines (or hatred and prejudice), drug trips in the ‘60s, or the frequent systematic oppression of women and minorities (never mind that Christ welcomed everyone). This secularist attitude got wonderful treatment in a recent episode of "Jack & Bobby" co-created by Brad Meltzer, bestselling author and a friend.

When we try to kick Christ out of a holiday named for Him, our society has a problem.

What's been the result of using the euphemism “holiday” and banning the Nativity? Congress may not be making any law about the free expression of religion, but the elite brain trust is acting like the Church of England kicking out the Puritans. What’s the result? Clashes over religion. Holiday depression. Loneliness around the holidays, especially in nursing homes. Suicide.

What's lost among the way? The spirit of giving. Warmth and compassion. Communion with family, friends and neighbors. And yes, that pesky expression of faith the secularists on the far left moan about. Ever notice that when it comes to their free expression of faith or lack thereof, they scream “racism” or “[fill in the blank] phobia” whenever Bill O’Reilly or anyone for that matter dares to pray or remind them that there is a God beyond their ideology? They accuse Christians of proselytizing but don’t hesitate to lecture on what is and what is not offensive today. President George Bush is mocked for his faith, and Senator John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, seems to have his usual difficulty sticking to a point on thorny social issues. No wonder the conventional wisdom was always not to discuss religion and politics, and for whatever God’s sake, don’t mix the two (even though it happens time and again), and let’s just all get along and sing carols at Christmas.

It seems that people are rebelling. The success of "Passion of the Christ," the Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind Series, as well as “Joan of Arcadia,” “7th Heaven,” and “Touched by an Angel” indicates a movement in popular culture.

Instead of skipping Christmas, let’s take back Christmas in our homes and families. Unless your family members and friends are Orthodox Jews or Muslims, you can celebrate Christmas with them. After all, Judaism and Islam recognize Jesus Christ as a prophet. Every religion celebrates the spirit of giving, from Kabbalah to Hinduism. We all agree we have too much stuff, too much food (as our overweight society proves), too much alcohol, too little kindness, patience and respect. We all want connection, love, belonging, and a place in the manger.

Top ten tips for taking back Christmas:

1) Make homemade gifts. Skip the malls. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to give something from the heart. 2) Invite friends or relatives to dinner instead of trying to give expensive gifts that no one uses anyway. 3) Don’t roll your eyes when someone says, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” And for Goddess’ sake, don’t use the “men” part to launch an anti-male rant. 4) Whatever your faith, speak up and say that Christian-bashing (or bashing of any kind) offends you, especially around the Christmas season. 5) Get together with friends and family and make care packages for homeless shelters, nursing homes, etc. Make that your gift to each other. 6) Call those friends or relatives you usually avoid talking to. Hearing about your old college roommate’s third marriage might not thrill you, especially since you can’t get a word in edgewise, but it’s a good way to give of your time, something we all feel we don’t have enough of but make for friends anyway. 7) If you’re just dying to cook that turkey dinner but your parents or mother-in-law insist on doing it THEIR way, give in. This is not a “me me me” time. 8) Rent or watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Linus’ recitation of the Bible and the gang’s rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” could make even Scrooge smile. And even Lucy van Pelt admits, “Charlie Brown is a blockhead, but he did get a nice tree.” 9) Take quiet time to think, meditate, and yes, pray. Consider it the mental vacation to Tahiti you can’t take because the family has camped out at your house. 10) Appreciate your children’s gifts, especially the homemade macaroni ornaments. The first gift of Christmas was a child.

We’ve taken back our streets. We’ve taken back the night. Let’s all take back Christmas, and we won’t have to skip it. But if you do feel like skipping Christmas to restore your faith, do it. The gift of one less stressed grumpy person around the holidays is priceless.

Copyright Kristin Johnson.

Kristin Johnson is co-author of the “highly recommended” Midwest Book Review pick, Christmas Cookies Are For Giving: Stories, Recipes and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts (ISBN: 0-9723473-9-9). A downloadablemedia kit is available at our Web site, www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com, or e-mail the publisher (info@tyrpublishing.com) to receive a printed media kit and sample copy of the book. More articles available at http://www.bakingchristmascookies.com.

kristin@poemsforyou.com

Kristin Johnson