It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? While I am learning to appreciate the slower pace winter offers, the cultural holidays can make for some uncomfortable moments. How do you live differently when your family and friends are against the change in you? How do you deal with the frustration of Christmas overload? My hometown literally broadcasts Christmas music over outdoor speakers so that it is heard throughout the downtown. And not a single business comes to mind where you won’t find holiday related decorations, events, or products; driving home from anywhere is bound to take you past lots of Christmas lights. This can be sad, overwhelming, or upsetting. How do we as Hebrews get through this time with grace?
Here are a few ideas to help guide the way:
Remember why you are doing this. At this time of year I like to brush up on some of the reasons Christmas is not condoned by YHWH. Not so I can unload this on every person I know, but because this gives me fresh conviction and motivation to not take part in this. The Truth or Tradition teaching is an excellent resource for this.
Pray and think about how you will respond.Having a few catchphrases to turn to when the subject comes up can simplify things greatly. When a cashier wishes you merry Christmas you could respond with something like, “I actually don’t celebrate that but I appreciate your kind wishes.” Consider also the reason you’ll give if you are asked why not. Something like, “I’m trying to follow the Bible’s instructions and while it speaks of seven holidays, Christmas is not one of them,” is a way to plant a seed. Pray about sharing extra details with those curious to know more.
It’s okay to remember the good times. Most of us have good memories surrounding Christmastime and it’s okay to acknowledge that and feel nostalgic. Letting go of Christmas doesn’t mean you have to let go of those memories. Reminisce of the happy times you’ve had with friends and family. Tell the stories or write them down.
Look ahead to YHWH’s feasts. My mind can’t help but wander to thinking about what YHWH desired those good memories to look like. To have memories of hearing the story of Yahusha’s birth read around a Sukkot campfire instead of next to a Christmas tree. To have kids hunt for the last bits of bread in the house before Matzah Week instead of Easter eggs. These sorts of memories are still possible so start planning for them! Start saving for a Sukkot trip or think of menu options for Passover. YHWH has made seven set apart times of joy for us, knowing that some part of us needs these special celebrations.
Connect with others. Not celebrating mainstream holidays can feel very isolating, but cutting out Christmas doesn’t have to mean avoiding family. Take advantage of extra time off or relatives being in town and invite people over for dinner or games or take your nieces and nephews sledding.
Dissent in small ways. This is a non-dramatic way to align yourself with YHWH’s ways. Taking a plain snicker doodle cookie from the work break room instead of the frosted Rudolph. Not wearing red and green together. Saying, “Have a nice time with your family,” in lieu of, “Merry Christmas.” Things like this give others nothing to be defensive or upset about. Being different in subtle ways shows others that this isn’t for show or attention.
Come up with alternative forms of entertainment. Turn on the radio or the television and Christmas will come at you fast. Create a playlist for the car or at work. Borrow a few wholesome movies from the library. Put snow to use and sled, ski, or make snowmen. Take a break from social media if that helps.
Know that you are not required to participate in Christmas activities at work. It is religious discrimination and employers cannot legally fire or punish someone for not participating in holiday activities. Of course going against the grain is not always expedient to your career, and sometimes hard choices have to be made. Scripture does tell us that if we keep the commandments we will be blessed. Perhaps not right away or in the way we expect, but nonetheless blessed. If you find yourself assigned to a Christmas related task you can ask to be reassigned or offer to switch projects with a coworker. A simple, “no thanks,” is the only explanation needed if you don’t want to participate in a gift exchange. If your workplace is open Christmas day or Christmas Eve offering to work then so others can have time off can earn you big time brownie points.
Avoid commercial displays of the holidays, if possible. In the fall I try and get stocked up on dry groceries, hygiene products, and such so I can avoid going to businesses that have decked their halls. Seriously, if being around Christmas stuff is hard or sad for you the last thing you need to do is walk through a store’s ornament isle. Utilizing pickup options or online holiday offers like free shipping also help me to avoid stores. Choose coffee shops and restaurants that are less decorated if you’ll be eating out. Go through the bank drive through instead of standing in line next to the Christmas tree in the lobby.
Don’t make changing anyone your job. It would be great if our families viewed this the same way we do, but honestly December 24 is probably not going to be the day most people have a serious change of heart on this. Pray for others to follow in YHWH’s ways and leave it to him. Share your heart, articles, or videos as you feel lead but also consider doing that in June when holiday emotions aren’t running high and friends may be more receptive.
Make your Passover yes louder than your Christmas no. It’s important for others to learn that Christmas is not of YHWH and doubtless we will all have opportunities to share truth and our own story of walking away from this during this season. But if we are going to reprimand people for celebrating the wrong holiday, we need to invite them to keep YHWH’s. If others hear you speak negatively of Christmas, make sure they hear a lot more positive talk from you about Passover, Shabbat, etc.
Offer grace to your upbringing and relatives. Many of us grew up seeing Christmas as a special time of honoring the Messiah and chances are we will meet some opposition from those who still view it that way. Acknowledge that most people are simply doing their best with what they have been taught, as you once were. Be kind and patient as the seeds you are planting in their lives take root.