Fundamentalist Christians aren’t supposed to celebrate holidays, especially Christmas, because the holiday was created by the Roman Catholics, and it’s just another way They Try to Get You.
I’ve written this before. I am still a fundamentalist around the edges. I’m still pretty literal. There are jokes I just don’t get, and must have explained to me. The whole notion of a clear line separating right and wrong makes sense to me.
And now it’s Christmas, and time to drag out the bulbs and feel a little…sad.
Before my mother divorced my father and married her fundamentalist husband, we did Christmas. We had church pageants and living manger scenes and hymns and everything that adds to the mystery of the season. And then? The lights went out — well, not entirely, but Christmas was considerably reduced.
So you grow up, you move out, and you create your own life — except for the tendrils wrapped around your heart or the sword plunged into your gut.
But I will have Christmas. On Saturday, we got the tree, and I put on Nat King Cole, and prepared to slide into my seasonal funk. It’s silly. I know. My parents should never have married, much less stayed that way, but somewhere in my head is a childhood uninterrupted by divorce, fundamentalism and some other nasty stuff I don’t go into here much. Just over the hill is my Dream Childhood, where my parents love one another, and we make a big deal out of Christmas.
For years, I decorated the tree by myself. I believe this was because my family sensed that I would be maudlin and not terribly Christmas-y in the process of pretending I liked the holiday. I would buy cheese trays and make fudge and still, they all disappeared into their bedrooms and let me to decorate on my own.
But this year, something else happened. Nat King Cole’s voice swelled, and the lights took over. Nobody took Christmas from me, at least not for my entire life. I mean, when you’re a kid you don’t have much choice, but I am far, far, far from being a kid. I put lights around the doorways. I lit the porch columns. I lit the tree and as the choirs sang, I realized that I simply have no interest in a predictable seasonal funk. I went to the store (I hate shopping) and bought a couple of things for people I’ve never met but have the gift tag for, and then came home and wrapped. Maybe seasonal funks have a shelf life. Maybe mine lasted too long, anyway.