Over at I H8 Religion, folks are chiming in on why or how they celebrate the season. I thought that I'd weigh in a smidge.
I was raised in a Buddhist household. Both of my parents were recovering Christians and probably wanted to shuck the trappings of their former religion. The only monkey wrench in that particular equation was my grandmother.
My grandmother was an amazing woman. I loved her dearly and I miss her painfully this time of year. All of our holiday activities centered around her. I would spend the night at her place before Thanksgiving and I would help her get the turkey in the oven and clean and set up before people arrived for dinner. We would go help with her tree and I would often help her wrap her gifts. She made her own bows to put on packages.
I'm sure that my Christian grandmother was heartbroken at the prospect of not being able to spoil her new grandchildren rotten on Christmas. After my grandfather died she often said how we kept her going. I'm sure that my parents relented in order to make her happy. Buying gifts and all that was very stressful for my mom because my grandmother rather cracked the whip over her, but I do know that she likes the holiday.
My grandmother was a true Christian, never pushing it on us, and she was charitable and generous. She read bits of the bible to me every morning because it was part of her daily ritual. It was more like she was sharing her life with me and less that she was trying to indoctrinate me. I liked having her read to me, and there are lyrical parts of the bible and psalms that are quite pretty.
Up until she passed away my grandmother was active at the food pantry at the church-run community center. She organized the boxes of dry good donations into portions for needy families. Even when her hands were too twisted and weak with arthritis to drive she would get a ride with other folks from the church and go to work.
My last memory of my grandmother was spending time at her house watching the football game between Fresno State (my alma mater) and Georgia Tech. (my sister's alma mater) This was after Christmas, and before New Year's. She taught me how to make her wonderful Christmas toffee. That was a lovely day. I was away at school when I got the news that she'd had a stroke.
When she died, we were at a loss as to what to do. So much revolved around her. That first year was an awkward attempt to keep going. But we did and we somehow managed.
This is what the holidays mean to me. It means spending time with family that I love, exchanging gifts that come from the heart, having good food and good times together. Now that I have a husband it means even more to me, because his memories of the holidays are a reflection of his scarring childhood. All I ever wanted to do was help him see that the holidays can be positive.
This year I am on an extremely limited budget because of my loans and all, and so I figured out how to make everyone's gifts. I feel like it means more this way anyway.
I still make toffee every year, and I know that grandma would be happy that we've carried on and done as well as we have.