Monday, December 14, 2009

church on christmas

We spent Saturday afternoon visiting with one of C's friends - an ex-army ranger - watching the Army/Navy football game. Military life has never interested me, aside from a very brief consideration of the Air Force toward the end of high school when those looming tuition bills seemed pretty unmanageable. Even then, to me it would have just been a way to get through school. For others it's a complete way of life, and I admire people who can make and follow through with that kind of selfless commitment. Anyway, while we were watching Army get their asses handed to them, P started regaling us with tales of training and Army life - the traditions and stories, the camaraderie, all the good stuff. I commented that the military and religion were similar in my mind - full of rich tradition and wonderful rituals, but not my cup of tea.

Growing up, there were few things more beautiful than Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to experience it yourself, it's usually an elaborate candlelit service - dark and quiet at first, usually opening with a soloist singing Silent Night, and then joyous and celebratory by the closing. The beauty of this particular service makes it easy to forget that christmas isn't the premier holy day for Catholics. I suppose you could say that's one of the things I miss about organized religion - the tradition and ritual. I don't remember it changing much - same readings, same songs, same stand-up/sit-down/kneel routine, same friends and family. When we were kids we would rush out excitedly after the mass had ended and we were instructed to "go in peace," knowing that santa would be arriving shortly after we returned home and were in bed sleeping (I guess the consumerism of today isn't so "new," after all!). Eventually, after the magic of Santa wore off, our family adopted a new tradition of opening gifts at home after midnight mass. As we grew even older, and our family had been torn apart and crookedly taped back together, the ritual remained the same but our reactions were different - the atmosphere became much more somber. A response to what we had lost, perhaps?

Even after I realized that organized religion wasn't "my thing," and that I didn't subscribe to christian beliefs, I still continued to go for a while - there was always someone to go "for." I went for my grandma, I went for my mother, I went for my mother-in-law. As an agnostic I can still appreciate the ritual. I miss it every christmas - not the religious and scriptural aspect of it, but the tradition and predictability.

Who knows, maybe one year I'll sneak into the back pew, just for old times' sake.

1 comment:

  1. I know this is an old post - but if you get this (and maybe you've already thought of this), but why not start your own winter traditions? Even Christmas ones (if you happen to like some of the traditions, as one of my Jewish friends does)? Make it your own. Your family's own. Embrace it. And gain the traditions & predictability that you miss.



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