Much to my annoyance, some of the Christmas zealots in my neighborhood put up their lights as early as Halloween this year. And I distinctly remember hearing the first hints of Christmas music over the speakers in a pharmacy two weeks before Thanksgiving, as if to remind everyone to think of their local drugstore first when desperately seeking those oh-so-one-of-a-kind Santa hats.
So by this point in the Christmas madness, things are in full swing and although I identify myself as a Christian, I have to say, I hate it. I hate what Christmas has become and all the little trappings, which upon review, can really be quite absurd.
Take, for instance, the Christmas tree. I have no idea how a pagan custom of 16th century Germanic tribes could become synonymous with the birth of a Jewish messiah and then become so enmeshed with Americana that we drape the tree in popcorn strings and top it off with some sparkly star. It seems all the more absurd that a Korean American man married to an Indian American woman would subscribe to such a strange and foreign practice and think of it as normal.
And there’s Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman too. I understand most of this is all good fun and done in the name of secular pluralism, but when these religious and irreligious symbols begin to show up as families are baking turkeys and juggling vacation days, while we are being inundated with American holiday consumerism at its year-end peak, I have to ask, whatever happened to the holy in the holidays?
What does it mean to make a day holy? How do Asian Americans create or adopt a connection to our religious traditions, whatever they may be?
This is not intended to make you feel less spiritual or to power up your inner atheist. The word “holy” simply means to “set apart.” In this sense, a “holy day” was a day set apart to remember, to reflect and to break up the monotony of days. And whether we call ourselves religious, we are all inclined to make certain things and days “holy.”
My grinch-like tendencies that flare up during the last 45 days of the year are because these days do not seem holy to me at all. They’re filled with insane trips to the mall, desperate for parking spaces, feelings of guilt because I have to lose weight even before this season begins, wondering if I got the right gifts for people or if I at least spent an adequate amount on them so I can look them in the eye when I unwrap the box with my name on it.
I’m tired of Christmas as usual. I can do without the “Fa la la la.” What I want for this time right before the new year, before that odometer turns to January again, is to set aside time and space for those who have been set aside: the poor, the lonely, the holy.