Rituals & Celebrations
I have a complicated relationship with holidays, one that predates my abandonment of religious belief. I have a hard time understanding rituals; I need to understand the logic underlying the holidays. The link between Christmas trees, gifts, and the birth of Jesus always seemed too tenuous for credibility.
In graduate school, when I was lost and confused about a career, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test. When I received my results, I laughed – part of the profile stated “does not readily grasp social rituals.” This description is entirely accurate; I am abysmal with small talk and my attempts in the dating world were a comedy of errors. I also struggle to understand the meaning of holidays and traditions.
In college, one of my roommates was an agnostic Jew. For Hanukkah one year, when she was unable to return home to celebrate with her family, we all sat down together to light candles and eat homemade cookies. My friend, with her gift for setting people at ease, has a knack for bringing people together. As a table, we were a mixture of people; we were musicians and scientists, agnostics and Jews, old and young. Between the passing of bread and the conversation of a diverse group of people, the celebration was more about friendship than anything else. That was when I started to understand the logic for holidays and celebration; underneath all the stories and rituals is the joy of family and friendship.
As an agnostic, I still celebrate Christmas; I love the scent of pine needles, the sight of snow falling thick upon the trees, the smell of hot chocolate, the brisk feeling of walking into a warm house after a walk in the cold air, the communal feeling of Christmas dinner, and the comfort of friendship.
That is my reason for the season.