Christmas time’s a comin’

It’s that time of year again when we put up the Christmas trees, drag out the ornaments and lights, and begin creating shopping lists for our friends and families. Unfortunately, the temperature being 70+ degrees most days has not been conducive to getting me in the holiday spirit.

It has been unseasonably warm and dry over the past few months. The trees decided it was too much effort to show off their autumn colors, so they just let their leaves turn brown and blow away in the wind. The grass is almost completely dead, and the mower (and me) were completely covered in dust the last time I mowed.

I have planted several more things in the yard thinking the seasonal rains would make it easier on me with keeping things watered, but no such luck. I am packing watering cans to various spots in the yard almost every evening.

I’m sure it will be freezing cold and raining before long, and then I will be complaining about all of that, so I try to just enjoy it as much as possible.

The warmer weather is nice in ways. Heating bills are basically nonexistent, and I don’t have to wait for the frost to clear off the windshield of my truck every morning before work. It’s nice to see some of my trees and shrubs still growing, too.

But I am still not ready to put up those dang trees or start shopping!

Holiday stress

I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I have been feeling very anxious and nervous over the past few days. If I had to venture a guess, I would say it is because of the upcoming holidays and all of the time and money that must be spent in order to satisfy the Christmas gods.

Each year after Christmas, I tell myself that I am going to scale things way back next time around. Unfortunately, the next year comes and I fall back into the same routine of running around from store to store trying to find the best price on whatever it is I am looking for.

What I really despise about exchanging Christmas presents is that it is basically just trading money. If you spend $50 on me, then I feel obligated to spend $50 on you. And don’t even consider the fact that I might get you something you have absolutely no desire for, or vice versa. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just set aside $50 to spend on myself? Or better yet, what if instead of exchanging presents with everyone, we just went out for a nice meal and conversation?

I have always said Christmas is for kids. I still believe that. And it would certainly be a lot less stressful.

It’s complicated

Several years ago, my mother’s brother married a black lady. His parents (my grandparents) were racist, so whenever the family would get together for Christmas or birthdays, she was never welcomed. My uncle attended these family functions for awhile, but eventually got fed up with the way his wife was being treated and stopped coming altogether.

I was just a young’un when this was happening, but I was already old enough to recognize that it was wrong to treat another person that way – especially when that person was so nice and loving themselves. Although my mother worshiped the ground my grandfather walked on, my memories of him are somewhat muddied by recollections of his bigotry and intolerance for anything different than himself.

As the years passed, my grandparents eventually seemed to figure out that if they wanted to spend quality time with their son, they would have to also invite their daughter-in-law, but years of painful rejection had already hardened her heart to the point that she had no interest in a relationship. It was only after the health of both of my grandparents had failed that she was able to truly become part of our family.

Although my grandfather passed away and the years have marched on, things can still get very uncomfortable in my family. While my uncle may have been the proverbial “black sheep” a few decades ago, the position has apparently fallen on my shoulders. Now, I’m the one who can’t bring his significant other to most family functions.

Since becoming an adult and having romantic relationships, Christmas has always been difficult, complicated, and painful. My immediate family runs the gamut from an accepting father to a non-accepting sister. Mom seems firmly lodged somewhere in between.

Every year, my dad has to wrestle with how to handle Christmas get-togethers. He knows if he invites me and my partner that my sister and her family won’t attend, yet he also realizes that asking me to come alone isn’t the right thing to do. This year, he decided to have two gatherings; one for us and one for them. This would mean that my sister and I would have to get with Dad and his wife an additional time to give him the presents that are coming from both of us. After talking it over with my partner, he told me that I should just go alone and be with my family.

For the past several years, I’ve also went alone to my sister’s on Christmas Eve, spent the night, and gotten up the next morning to watch the kids open their presents. While no one has ever specifically stated that my partner isn’t welcome, it’s more than obvious. Once again, my partner insists that I spend this time with my family, explaining that he wouldn’t feel comfortable there even if invited.

I am terribly torn in both of these situations; torn between wanting to spend the holiday with my lover, remaining true to my beliefs, and spending time with family members. I know without a doubt that discriminating against others is wrong, regardless of the reason, and I feel like I’m letting my partner and myself down when I cave to peer pressure from relatives. I also realize that spending time with family is important, and that depriving them of my company in an attempt to pressure them into doing the right thing would be futile. There just doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.

It’s tempting for me to blame Christianity, or at least my family’s interpretation of Christianity, as the root of their intolerance. I could have titled this post something like “Christianity: Destroying Families for 2,000 Years” and ranted about all the hypocrisy in the pro-family rhetoric that fills Christian radio, but I know it isn’t so simple. Christians might be tempted to blame my sexuality for tearing my family apart, but, again, too simple.

The truth is, this type of thing is happening to families all across the world. Being religious isn’t synonymous with bigotry, and fear of what is different can arise anywhere and at any time. What separates the bigots from the rest of the crowd is how they react to that fear. Do they recognize it, study themselves for a sign of what caused it, and try to get beyond it, or do they let fear paralyze themselves to the point that they shut out the very people that they should be having meaningful relationships with?

I hope against hope that my family will eventually see the light and open their arms and homes to the man with whom I’m privileged to share my life. Only then will I have a truly merry Christmas.

Lowered expectations

I hold Christians to a very high standard, mainly because everything they do is a direct reflection on Christ and other people of faith. While it is tempting to lump all of them into one big category, I realize that Christians can be as varied as as the colors in a box of crayons. Some are as conservative as Rush Limbaugh, some are as liberal as Keith Olbermann, and most are somewhere in the middle.

It probably speaks to my own theological leanings that the more conservative members of faith are the ones that irk me the most, but it also seems that they are the least likely to think for themselves – or even think at all.

Honey started substitute teaching this week, so we celebrated his job change by visiting an amazing restaurant to celebrate. The nearby tables were host to a lively bunch that talked rather loudly and didn’t think twice about mixing two topics that are often considered off-limits at the dinner table – politics and religion.

Over and over I heard “Obama this” and “Obama that” and it was always negative. It seems like he is being blamed for everything that is wrong with this country, even though he hasn’t even been in office a full year. The political banter went on for quite some time, but the most ridiculous statement I heard came from an older gentleman who exclaimed that he was racist and becoming more so all the time. He seemed to take real pride in the fact.

Their racist conversation continued unabated for several minutes before the waitress arrived to box up their leftovers. She inquired about where they were from and they announced they were a church group from Tennessee. And for a brief moment, I was actually ashamed to share the same religion as these pathetic excuses for Christians.

The absurdity of it all reminded me of a conversation I read on Facebook recently. One of my friends posted a status update about Obama trying to convince lawmakers to include funding for abortion in his healthcare plan. “What if his mother had aborted him?” she asked. “She’d have done the world a favor” was the tasteless response that preceded a heated discussion that included such pearls of wisdom as “This will give sluts an excuse” and “Christians should stop paying taxes.”

When I explained that abortion is normally covered by health insurance plans, that Obama is pro-choice (not pro-abortion), and that our tax dollars have killed at least 750,000 people worldwide since 2002, I was assured that while abortion qualifies as murder, killing those we are at war with doesn’t. Interesting logic.

Sometimes I wonder if these people even read the Bible. How did they overlook the core tenets of Christianity like loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you?

Jesus said the two most important commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. If we do those two things, everything else will fall into place. When someone takes pride in doing the opposite, they insult the One they claim to follow and they don’t deserve the title “Christian.”

The origins of ‘Xmas’

It’s gotten to the point where Bill O’Reilly has actually convinced most Americans that there is a legitimate war on Christmas – as if one of the world’s most popular holidays is going to go the way of the dodo bird. I saw more proof of this phenomenon recently when one of my Facebook friends joined a group called “It’s CHRISTmas, not Xmas.”

What is so hilarious is that most of the people in that group have no idea about the origins of the abbreviated word. It turns out that the “X” in Xmas comes from the Greek letter Chi – the first letter in the Greek word for “Christ.”

From Wikipedia:

labarumThe word “Christ” and its compounds, including “Christmas”, have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern “Xmas” was commonly used. “Christ” was often written as “XP” or “Xt”; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as AD 1021. The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches.

From Snopes:

The abbreviation of “Xmas” for “Christmas” is neither modern or disrespectful. The notion that it is a new and vulgar representation of the word “Christmas” seems to stem from the erroneous belief that the letter “X” is used to stand for the word “Christ” because of its resemblance to a cross, or that the abbreviation was deliberately concocted “to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas.”

Actually, this usage is nearly as old as Christianity itself, and its origins lie in the fact that the first letter in the Greek word for “Christ” is “chi,” and the Greek letter “chi” is represented by a symbol similar to the letter “X” in the modern Roman alphabet. Hence “Xmas” is indeed a perfectly legitimate abbreviation for the word “Christmas.”

So there you have it. There is no sinister plot to remove Christ from Christmas. Now turn off Fox News and get back to shopping.

Christmas vacation

I’m off from work this week, but that doesn’t mean that I am lying around eating cookies and watching movies. Well… maybe I am, but we’ve actually been quite busy. I figured this would be a great week to get my Christmas shopping done, since Honey finished his school semester last week and I got my bonus on Saturday night at our work holiday party.

Speaking of the party, it was a blast! I’ve never had the opportunity to dance at a work party before, but I shook my money-maker like nobody’s business and no one even complained. In fact, I think some of them rather enjoyed it. All it took was Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” blaring over the sound system to get me and my partner-in-crime, Christy, out of our chairs and into the holiday spirit. We danced around like the crazed offspring of robots, cheap hookers, and single-mom strippers while the rest of those in attendance howled in laughter. Good times.

Sunday, we went with some wonderful friends to see a live rendition of A Christmas Story. While the movie is a divinely-inspired work of art, the play left something to be desired. The actors put forth their best efforts, but it rather sucked… especially since it cost $10 per person. We licked our wounds (and our spoons) afterwards with a trip to the ice cream parlor, before going back to Alyson’s house where I trounced everyone during a rousing game of Dominos.

Monday’s plans of Christmas shopping were derailed when we got blasted with ice and snow. I’m not sure whether it was due to my fervent prayers or just a stroke of luck, but our electricity actually stayed on the whole time. We were a little gun-shy after that week without power back in the summer.

Things had thawed out enough by Tuesday that we could venture out of the driveway, so we headed for the nearest mall, assuming that there wouldn’t be nearly as many thrill-seekers who were willing to risk life and limb to buy presents for their family members. WRONG. I swear people would brave cataclysmic floods and earthquakes just to save $10 on something they don’t need and their family members don’t want. At least I got some of my shopping done and a Chick-fil-A sandwich to boot.

The rest of the week has been a blur of sleeping late, nonstop eating, watching television, and surfing the net. I’ve also become somewhat of a text messaging addict since getting my snazzy new phone with a full keyboard. My sister and I both have Verizon and can text back-and-forth for free, so we clog the airwaves with the most useless dribble – most of it related to who’s getting what for Christmas and how much we should spend on this parent or that one.

My sis doesn’t have the internet (which she loving refers to as the “sinnernet”), so she sends me requests to look up prices on certain items and I snap photos of the computer screen and send it back to her with the info she needs to make an informed buying decision. It’s sort of surfing by proxy. I figure that she might as well get the internet herself if she’s going to make me use it for her, but I guess she figures I’m already so sinful that a little extra sinning really won’t matter. Kind of like deciding to get whip cream and nuts on your hot fudge sundae.

So, I’ve gotten well over half my shopping done at this point, and already have some of the presents wrapped and placed under the trees (I put up two this year). I even mailed out our Christmas cards. The holidays are definitely here!

But, boy, won’t I be glad when they’re over…