I’m Not Christian. Am I Still Allowed to Celebrate Christmas?Dec 08, 2015
Hong Kong during Christmas is my childhood holidays, encompassed. The whole city is lit up with lights, and not once did I feel as the odd Hindu out. There I was, celebrating Christmas with so much vigour and love. It felt right and perfect, and it’s all I’ve ever known. (To this day, I miss hearing what big plans my Aunt had for us. I owe a huge part of my fun-filled holiday memory bank to her.)
There’s something so whimsical about the last days of December when you’re in school, doing hardly any work and enjoying the teacher’s merry mood. (After all, they get to go on vacation and spend time with their loved ones, too, despite the fact that a lot of kids think teachers live in the school. :-P) I miss exchanging presents with classmates, then heading home to pack up for our trip to Hong Kong. I got to spend a few weeks with my cousins, eat sweets to my little heart’s content, play hilarious games, and sing Christmas carols. (Looking back, I can’t believe I did that!)
The night before Christmas, we’d be woken up to spend time with the “adults,” running our hands over the gifts under the tree, lightly shaking them for a clue about their contents. And let me tell you, there was a lot of self-control used up not to peek in our stockings early. Eventually, Santa would come, his jingle bells tinkling happily as he walked joyously through the front door. We looked up at him with such…awe. The holidays have always felt so surreal, sweet, and enchanting. I can’t help but hope that my boys carry the same magical feelings around this time of year.
Looking back, it all brings up a whole lot of suadade, a Portuguese word for something similar to nostalgia. It’s about remembering my wonderful holiday experiences, reliving that excitement, pleasure and well-being, and letting those memories trigger those senses, making me feel alive and six years old, all over again.
But despite my enthusiasm for all things festive, sometimes celebrating Christmas makes me feel like a fraud. I’ve done a lot of digging and reflecting recently (as is the norm), thinking about Christmas and how I fit in now that I’m grown, not visiting Hong Kong, and creating new memories with my boys. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
First things first, I seldom write the word “X-mas.” (I attended Christian and Catholic schools for 12 years, and it’s been ingrained in my brain not to do so.) I’ve had to memorize both the old and new testaments from the bible, regularly pray in church, and attend special Christmas mass. And yet, I’m not Christian. Am I still allowed to celebrate Christmas?
I love this time of year and feel completely compelled to be a part of it (though don’t even get me started on malls during the month of December). But for me, it’s all about simplicity.
The feel of warm, cozy knits as my boys and I spend time together with the smell of muskoka campfire laced through the air. (It’s via some candle folks, and I definitely encourage you to check them out. #diehardCanadian.) Our annual tree cutting ritual at a local farm. Marshmallow-topped hot choco by the fireplace. Christmas gatherings at my parents—this time with our ugly sweaters on as we embrace new traditions.
After reflecting, it comes down to this for me: what does it matter what religion I am? Christmas serves as a reminder that we’re not alone, and that’s a reminder I’ll always happily embrace. I am just as blessed during Christmas as the Christian person standing next to me, and while I may not directly be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m celebrating the beauty of humanity.
There’s a power greater and beyond my reach that helps raise the global vibration this time of the year, and I’m so thankful that the spirit of Christmas reaches millions around the world. At the end of it all, I always say it’s all about connection. Amen to that.
So from the bottom of my rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed, six year-old heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.