Tuesday, April 6, 2010

:::Holidays on Holidays:::

I've had some thoughts recently about separating the secular from the non-secular on holidays. They are not thoughts in reaction to anything that I observed in your life, read on your blog, or heard about you behind your back (mmm-hmm), etc. Ok? We cool?

Last Christmas I felt somewhat 'blah'. At the end of the season, my good friend asked me why I thought that was, and without thinking about it I replied, "It was too non-secular."

I think many of us (je included) might have gone too far with the 'presents are bad,' 'Reason for the Season' movement. Why? Why are presents bad? What's wrong with, I don't know, actually celebrating Christmas on the actual day of Christmas? Can a few thoughtful gifts really turn your heart away from the Savior on Christmas Day? If so, I think the problem lies not with our observances, but with the nature of our testimonies. Isn't it a great idea to add religion to the gift-giving part of the holiday? Wouldn't adding some holy perspective only serve to temper the rampant materialism in our society? Huh?

If we give presents on Christmas Day will children truly grow into adults who think that the holidays are first and foremost about iPods and clothes? For reals? What kind of parent raises a child like that? What's going on the rest of the year in that family to reinforce that belief?

What's wrong with kids getting jazzed up about presents? They are kids, that's what they do. You grab their attention with flash, then you teach them what they need to know. You show me an 18 month old who will sit through a Bible tale where pictures, funny voices, and a liberal hand with fishy crackers aren't involved. You show me that child.

And now I learn that giving children Easter baskets on Easter is heathen. Pourquoi? I loved Easter baskets as a child. I thought they were boss. It was a Sunday and we got candy and some novelty knick-knacks. Suh-weet. That never happened any other Sunday of the year. Heck, that never happened any other time during the year. And then I realized it was so because of a religious event. Double cool. Toys because of something church related? Yes, ma'am. I'm there. And then we got to wear new dresses and eat even more candy once we got to church. And then we would get even more Easter candy from our grandmas and I thought, 'Hey, they must be cool since they're in on this Easter thing.' Who lost in that situation?

And then I grew up and I get it now and I'm fine. I don't need candy and toys, but, boy-howdy, they do make me happy. Super happy. The giving and receiving of bounty makes everyone happy. Can't we be happy on the holidays? I'm not talking about hootin' and hollerin' happy on Easter Sabbath, but surely we aren't saying that a decent amount of joyous happiness is a bad thing (scripture quote, I win). Surely.

This is my point -- Human beings have two natural forms of celebration. Ok, human beings have three natural forms of celebration, but on this family-oriented blog (and since I have yet to 'know' a man) we're only going to talk about two of them -- eating and giving. Seeing candy around the holiday sends a message to my brain that says, 'Hey-o! Something special is about to happen! Can-day!' And then people send me cards and I think, 'They remembered me!' And then I get gifts and treats and cards ready for other people because I want them to know that I love them and that I remembered them, and because being generous with what I have is a natural outcome of thinking about the awesome significance behind Christmas and Easter.

And on Easter I like candy and toys because they are two of the finest things in life and they make me immensely happy, which only adds to my feelings of joy that I've had the chance to participate in this wonderful plan and enjoy the bounty of mortality and the promises of eternity while being surrounded by people that I like/love. So many days aren't awesome. Christmas and Easter are like freebies. 'Advance to Go. Grab some candy on your way. Eat delicious food until you're sick. Watch your kids play intensely with their new toys all day. Retell the same family stories you tell every year. Laugh until you can't breathe.'

So, what's next? Can we not celebrate birthdays on birthdays? Should we do all the present stuff the day before, then mark the actual day with solemn remembrances and zero fun? Sorry, did I miss the part when we turned scary-Quaker? When smiles became bad? When the laughter and joy of children became a damning offense? When, when, oh, Israel? When did this happen?

Up next: My sister can only take store-bought pre-packaged goods to my niece's and nephew's schools (right, because that's a safe bet). Listen, people, I don't want to live in this kind of world.


Sarah said...

You crack me up. When Israel lets you know when this all happened, please let the rest of us know.

Personally, I like parties and holidays. Always have. Always will. Maybe it's because I work really hard the rest of the year, that I appreciate jovial nonsense a few times a year.

I really like having General Conference on Easter Sunday, because it gave us a chance to slow down that day and really think/ponder about the meaning of the holiday without having to rush out to church. I'm a fan. I vote yes from now on. Please forward my vote to Israel.

Sarah said...

Also, so you're not against the foam swords the Easter Bunny brought my kids? Don was a fan.

Sheans said...

I agree. That's why my kids ask me which holiday is next so they can start planning their next candy extravaganza. What of it?

I did easter baskets on Easter morning. And it was awesome. I know of people who do them on Saturday because they don't want to "pollute" the day of Easter with gifts. Hmmm....... I say, pollute away. The more pollution, the better.

And, also, our school is the same way about pre-packaged goods. I ignore that rule and bring baked goods at least twice a month. From my own kitchen. So there. Take that Delta School District!!

Rachel said...

So, I'll admit to doing Easter baskets on Saturday. My reasons for this are three-fold: 1)It's what we did when I was growing up; 2)By the time Sunday and three hours of church roll around, my kids' sugar high has leveled off a bit, thereby making "church without tears" (a weekly goal) much more likely; 3)I think Easter and Christmas are totally different holidays in tone. Let me continue. For me, gifts on Christmas makes perfect sense in a secular and spiritual way. On Christmas, we are celebrating Christ's birth. It's a gift to the world. Babies are sweet and nice. The nativity is sweet and nice. Presents are sweet and nice. It works.

Easter, on the other hand, is a more interesting mix of somber and joyous. When I was telling Clara the story of Christ's final week, I noticed in fresh detail just how grim most of that story is. It's a lot of sad, sad stuff with one BIG joyful moment at the end. The joyful moment is definitely a big deal, but somehow I think the whole story just seems less well matched with candy comas and random magical rabbits who lay eggs and pass out candy and toys. Santa makes much more sense to me than the Easter bunny. We still DO the Easter bunny, but for me, on a mental level, I'd rather have rabbits separate from Jesus, so I separate them. It works for us.

I have to ask, though: I have never in my life heard of people not doing presents on Christmas (or on a different day). Is this common??

So there's the news from Lake Quaker. That, and I've started wearing dresses and bonnets. Is that weird? Word.

rebekah said...

Rachel --

Of course you have expressed yourself far better than I ever could. I've decided that I need to learn how to draw because my prowess with words ain't too sharp. Maybe I'll do better with pictures?

I totally agree with you about the Easter Bunny. I think he's useless. What is he all about, anyhow? What does he add to the holiday? Nothing. I think 'he' is weird and has no point. Those baskets of goodies can come straight from mom and dad, in my opinion.

I don't think I would ever do an Easter Egg hunt on Easter. That seems...off.

You're right about Easter being one BIG happy moment at the end. I've never thought of it that way. I think, from my perspective, I need the happiness to be scattered throughout because I have had such a difficult time in the past thinking of the pain and misery that led up to the Resurrection. I was well into my college years before I could finally begin to come to terms with recognizing all of the Savior's suffering. Most of my life when I thought about Him I would focus on the Little Baby Jesus who was perpetually safe and whole and happy in the stable with Mary. At some point in my upbringing I must have been infused with some Jonathan Edwards style guilt because I felt personally responsible for every bad thing the Savior had to endure, and that because of this I was a sinner in the hands of one angry, angry God. So, I would always gloss over Easter in my mind and just stick with the happy and heart warming image of the Baby Jesus. Babies can't be mad at you and no one was torturing Jesus in the Christmas story, so that's where I found my happy place.

Yes, I am sad to report that a small group of radicals are going to extreme measures when it comes to Christmas. Most, I hope, are just talking a big game. I suspect there might be a vein of spiritual one-upmanship involved.

michelle said...

I'm with you. I love candy and presents and we do Easter baskets on Sunday. And egg hunts.

I'm bugged about the store-bought goods at the schools, too.