Sheila Raghavendran

Marrying ‘merry’ and ‘happy’ this holiday season

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Christmas is a difficult holiday to not celebrate.

Growing up in suburban Ohio hasn’t always offered the most welcoming experiences. And for many years my (Hindu) family “celebrated” Christmas — only because doing otherwise was considered wrong.

And I didn’t really know what Christmas was for some time. A holiday for giving and receiving gifts? That’s all I knew, because that’s all my family was expected to do. We were celebrating Christmas on a purely-societal level.

My sister and I would go to kindergarten and elementary school and the other kids would ask what Santa was bringing us, or what color lights we put on our tree. We would make ornaments in class and color pictures of elves making toys. It was assumed that we all participated in the holidays — and there’s no problem with that. T’is the season!

My family would always refer to Diwali as our holiday of the season, but it’s not. It falls in the October-early-November timeframe and we rarely have a chance to celebrate it in full. So to show each other and our friends that we care, we took to Christmas.

We assembled our Christmas tree every December, strung with lights, adorned with ornaments, completed with a shimmering star on top. We decorated the front of our house with Christmas lights, and even placed an illuminated reindeer duo on our lawn. We wrapped presents and placed them neatly under the tree. We taped snowman stockings to our mantel. And on December 24 we made chocolate chip cookies to leave for Santa Claus.

And so the holidays went on for over 10 years. It was nice to have a way to join in on the season’s celebration. We were fine with it, society gave us its stamp of approval — everything was fine.

But as Christmases have come and gone, we’ve become more accustomed to the fact that Christmas isn’t really our place. We still loved participating in the excitement and appreciation that the season brings, but why take the time and effort to prop up a tree, or light the house, or anxiously wait until the morning of the 25th to open presents? We didn’t need to do all that anymore. It became acceptable to opt out.

But I love the holiday season. It’s such an uplifting time of year. We still exchange gifts to show we care, but we don’t set aside a specific day anymore. We give and receive holiday presents anytime from November to January. I enjoy the holiday festivities and respect everyone’s celebration of holidays — Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, anything it may be. If someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I’ll say it back. I say it first sometimes, even if it throws them off. (See Abbey Marshall’s post “When did ‘Merry Christmas’ become ‘Happy Holidays’?”)

And Santa Claus has stopped coming to my house. But it’s perfectly okay.

Author: sheilaraghavendran

I agree with Ellen, let's be kind to one another.

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