Wednesday, December 26, 2007

End-of-the-Year Rituals

These holidays at the end of the year seem to me as end-of-the year rituals. Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday because it involves the least amount of fuss, is a time of giving thanks for those good things that occurred throughout the year, such as maintaining one’s job and continuing to have the health of one's family and one’s own health. Christmas is the giving of presents to friends and family as a way of acknowledging their importance. New Year’s is a time to reflect on what occurred during the previous year and to consider what one wants to have happen during the upcoming year.

When I was single, I often used to write in my journal on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t always have someone significant in my life and didn’t seek out many friends, so I celebrated the end of the previous year and the start of the upcoming one by writing about what happened and what actions I planned to put into play. I eventually ended up watching one or two late movies on TV before going to bed.

Of all of the holidays, Christmas is my least favorite. Too much importance is placed on it in American culture. My wife and I, during the past few years, have been setting limits on what we spend on each other. We have also been buying a llama, for example, through Heifer International instead of giving our relatives individual presents. This year we also bought a Christmas basket for a family through the Southwestern Indian Foundation and bought what a 12-year-old girl in the community had asked for on the tag she filled out and placed on an Angel tree sponsored by the Salvation Army. There were many tags that hadn’t been taken off of the tree by December 23. We would have done more if we could. As someone who puts together a full-time teaching schedule by teaching part-time for two institutions, I won’t be paid again until mid-February and have to anticipate the continuing collapse of our economy.

I think I would enjoy Christmas more if I had more family living nearby. Even after twenty years, I’m not close to my wife’s family. Although they seem to have accepted me, we don’t have much to say to each other. My wife would say that I’m not a talker; actually, I am when I have something to say and when we share something that we can make conversation about. Several of her relatives are fanatical Christians and seek to convert everyone else they come into contact with. My own belief system is not something that I openly practice in front of others. Poetry, music, and nature are what give my life meaning and what sustain me during the dark times. The equivalent of a pagan, I find meaning in these yearly holidays in some ways similar and in some ways different from others.