Authentic Practices - January 24, 2019
I do not observe the Christian doctrine, yet, since I was born, I have celebrated one of Christianity’s important days. Call it a ritual, routine, habit, or just plain following along like a sheep. For me, there has been no religious meaning in this celebration. Christmas was about lots of presents, pretty decorations, special foods, and family gatherings.
Baptized and confirmed Episcopalian, my religious upbringing was brief and scattered. The only time I attended church was to sing in the children’s choir. By the time I was eight years old, my parents had separated from the church, and my paltry religious education ended. As a teenager, I attended church a few times with my friends. Then I played antagonist and challenged them to prove to me there is an all-knowing God, as described in the Christine Doctrine. They informed me I was going to Hell.
I do believe it is up to each individual to discover, in their own terms, their personal spiritual meaning. I would encourage all to follow their heart in this matter.
And today, I can confidently say that organized religion is not a good fit for me. There are too many rules about how to honor the divine. I cherish my freedom and choose to keep an open mind about all beliefs. Working with the land and animals on my grandparent’s ranch, I began to develop a personal philosophy about Mother Nature. I came to honor the changing of the seasons, respect Mother Earth, practice conservation, and experience gratitude for the bounty received from the land. Everything is from one energy, and all is connected.
And this brings me to my dilemma about Christmas this past year. I love the season: the lights, colors, a celebration of family, the love what it represents. Jesus is not my savior. I do think he was an amazing prophet. But so was Mohammed, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, and Confucius, yet they are not my saviors either. To be truly authentic I do not believe I should celebrate a holiday when I do not observe the reason for its existence. Hanukah, Ramadan, Diwali are all significant holidays for different religions, and I do not celebrate those days. But living in America, Christmas is what we “do.” And its what I have done for the past 49 years.
I realize that Over the last ten years, I slowly started to change this ritual. Some of it has been a conscious change while other parts have been accidental. In my heart I honor the Winter Solstice – a time symbolizing the shedding of the past, navigating the darkness, and acknowledging the renewal of youth and light. I also observe the Summer Solstice as well as the Spring and Autumn Equinox. The changing of the seasons and the natural rhythm of the earth calls to my soul.
We no longer cut and put up a Christmas tree. Initially, it was due to a new, playful, and very mischievous kitten but now it has more to do with shedding a tradition that no longer represents our beliefs. I decorate for each season. Winter includes beautiful greens, reds, lights, and candles (lots of holiday lights and candles) – all symbols of life and renewal.
Because Christmas Day is an observed holiday in the United States, it is into an opportunity to gather with family. We still have fun food and special baked goods. My daughter has inherited her grandfather’s love of gift giving. It is a joy to watch her shop and plan, so that tradition remains with the agreement that gifts are kept to a minimal.
It took soul searching, talking to others, and examining my beliefs to be comfortable shedding the celebration of the Christian Christmas. It is a 49-year-old habit, and it challenges the old inner critic's mantra, “And what will everyone say about you?” “What makes you think you can be different?” Going along with the crowd and compliance have been my habit - and this is what I am really breaking from. It feels stressful and anxiety producing to break from the majority. I can appreciate that others embrace the Christian Christmas. The belief is clear for them, and I truly honor that. Now I need to acknowledge what is right for me and continue to march to the beat of my own drummer. Something I revel in and fear at the same time.
Being more conscious about how I choose to observe the divine helps me to continue my journey of authenticity and to disconnect from the collective unconscious. Being more of who I am and embracing what I love in life invites more serenity. It is freeing, and ultimately I like it better than compliance!
© 2013-2019 Kelly Marker, Charlie’s Wisdom All Rights Reserved