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So, What If You Don't Observe Holidays?

Life & Travel

When it comes to certain things in life, I'm personally more interested in the origin than the motive. I'll explain:

Take the holiday Thanksgiving, for example. Although Boston Celtics baller Kyrie Irving caught some heat for not having great things to say, publicly, about Thanksgiving this year, I get why. Reportedly, his late mother is a descendant of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the origin of Thanksgiving? I'll put it to you this way—an interesting and informative read is "The Truth About Thanksgiving: What They Never Taught You in School".

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And Christmas? I know a lot of Christians say that Jesus is the reason for the season; however, while that might be their motive for observing it, that's certainly not Christmas's origin. It's more about "the holiday of Saturnalia," a week-long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25, and Christians back in the day wanting to get in on the festivities so badly that they "tacked" Christ's birthday on the end of it in order to justify becoming a part of Saturnalia. Christ's birthday is actually more around late spring, or early summer because (Hello!) that's when it's wintertime in the Middle East/Africa (Matthew 2, Luke 2).

Why is the New Year celebrated on January 1? Basically, Julius Caesar decided to switch up the calendar (you can read more about that here). I could go on, but I think you get where I'm going with this.

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For me, it's knowing this kind of information that has brought me to a place of no longer observing/celebrating the holiday season. Now that doesn't mean I'm a low key Grinch who's plotting to take your Christmas trees in the middle of the night. It just means that when someone says, "So, what are you doing for the holidays?" with their faces beaming, my answer is simply, "I don't observe them," with the still-useful Kanye shrug. Then I go about the holiday season like I would any other day. And honestly, since I've been doing that, life has been less stressful, more peaceful, and yes, financially stable. I have no regrets. Not one.

While I know there are dozens of reasons why others may not observe the holiday season; maybe it's for religious reasons, maybe something else, the reason I'm penning this is because of the thing we have in common, which is we tend to be the exception and not the rule. Because of that, there's not nearly enough info out in cyberspace about how to get through this time of year—or all year if you're someone who doesn't celebrate any holiday at all.

If you can relate to where I'm coming from because, for whatever the reason, you don't do holidays either, here are some tips that get me through every time this time of year rolls around.

Decide What You Will—And Will Not—Do Beforehand.

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I don't have any children, but I do have a goddaughter. I don't buy her Christmas gifts. She knows why, plus she gets enough stuff from me throughout the year that she's fine with it. One of my closest friends takes Christmas décor to a disturbing level, but I'm not gonna go over to her house and roll my eyes the entire time.

I usually swing by before she puts everything up or after Christmas is over, just so my lack of enthusiasm doesn't rain on her parade. My immediate family lives overseas, so that's not an issue and relatives who are close by respect that I'm not feeling lonely if I don't wanna swing by.

My point? Things only get "weird" when you're not clear. Once you are firm in your decisions and express to others what you want to do and don't want to do well before Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, even if the first couple of years are uncomfortable or odd for them, eventually they will catch on. And usually, it becomes not that big of a deal—both ways.

Share Because They Ask, Not Because You’re Being An Anti-Holiday Bully.

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Before I got to the personal place of not observing holidays (although I do have a thing for Valentine's Day, but not for the reasons you think; St. Valentine was pretty gangster), I always admired how Jewish and Muslim people I knew handled Christmas. They didn't observe it, but they didn't berate me with their reasons why either.

At the same time, whenever I asked them for their take on the day, they were more than happy to share; they were also really well-versed in what they were talking about. I'm grateful for those kinds of convos because they taught me to be knowledgeable about my stance while still being respectful of other people's positions. If someone asks what my deal is, I share. If they don't, a simple "I don't observe" will suffice.

Be Gracious.

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There's a couple I know who have the greatest Christmas hustle around. They don't observe/celebrate Christmas, so they don't bring gifts to their family members' homes. Cool. Do you. Oh, but guess what they will do—accept presents. Is it just me or does that sound more selfish than anything else?

I'm not saying you should turn down grandma's $5 in her annual Christmas card just because you chose not to get her anything. But if you do decide to spend the actual holiday DAY with others, be gracious and bring a bottle of wine or a dessert or something. You would do that for Sunday dinner on a "regular" day, right? (Right?!?)

Create Your Own Traditions.

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I really like going to the movies, so on Thanksgiving, it's bliss to be able to sit in a theatre and just binge-watch. Christmas? Since I work from home, it's amazing how much I can get done (online and off) since most people are focused on family stuff. New Years? I personally observe Rosh Hashanah so, it doesn't feel like I'm missing out on anything (I already had my new year). When you create your own traditions, it makes not observing the holidays in the way that others do basically a non-issue. They can do them while you do you and it's all good—both ways.

Acknowledge The Spirit Of The Season If Nothing Else.

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A few years back, I interviewed a Jewish woman who is married to a Christian man. They celebrate "Christmahanukkah" at their house. Although she isn't big on Christmas, she said something about it that has stayed with me – "If this is the one time of year when everyone can act like they've got some sense and be loving to family, friends, and strangers alike, I can appreciate that." Yeah. Me too.

Pardon the pun, but we can wrap this up in a pretty red bow with that beautiful point. Whether you observe the holiday season or not, if every day is looked at as an opportunity to bring peace and goodwill to others, it shouldn't be an issue whether that day is a random Monday or a holiday. I think we all can get on the same page about that.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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