I just finished putting up the Christmas decorations. Not the tree... We get that in about a week or so. As always it will be a Charlie Brown tree -- one that no one else wants because it's crooked or has gaps between the uneven branches. Somehow that helps assuage the guilt of cutting down something that was alive -- just to decorate it for a few weeks and then throw it in the trash pile. We could of course get an artificial tree. But it would be - well - artificial. Not our traditional Christmas.
So I guess that makes me a bit of a hypocrite.
We celebrate Christmas but a secular way. As I always have. When I was growing up in downtown Boston, everyone was Christian. Or seemed to be. The old Boston "Brahmins" as the upper class was called were Protestant. Their names were still on the great old brick mansions up on Beacon Hill. I didn't know any of them. Just their houses.
The kids I went to school with came from all over the city. Boston's black families were also mostly Protestant. Almost everyone else seemed to be Irish or Italian and Catholic. So I grew up with a Christmas tree. As a Jewish kid (but not very) I was told we didn't believe in the "Christ" part but that Jesus was a Jew and a prophet so it was OK to mark his birth and to enjoy the spirit of the day.
I always believed (and kind of still do - wishfully) that Christmas is really about being nice to one's fellow humans. When I was younger - and it wasn't all about getting the deepest discount on some big screen TV or the toy of the moment - people WERE nicer and kinder at Christmas. We held doors open for each other, smiled at each other, weren't so pushy to get on the subway.
And we took the time to look around and savor the traditions of the season. When I was in high school and college we all went caroling on Beacon Hill on Christmas Eve. And when I finally grew up and got to live in New York -- there were always little groups of carolers walking around the neighborhoods. One Christmas my roommate and I with our boyfriends -- all professional singers except me who was only a wanna be -- went caroling around the upper East Side of Manhattan. We had the best time! People were opening their windows to listen to us.
But now we have Black Friday with its fights over deeply discounted door busters. And the news media talks of nothing but how much more or less people spent than last year. And I think about that and wonder how we all got to be so ugly during a holiday period which used to be almost magical.
Have we really lost the magic? Do we really need Macy's to remind us to "Believe" as they republish that famous "Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus" letter?
Or is it just that I was so young once. When the world was young too.