Happy Holidays. Tis the Season to be jolly. I never understood religious holidays. Not being religious. I understand celebrating. I enjoy festive parties and decorating and eating goodies. I just don’t get the idea that if you are not religious you should have to say Merry Christmas. So, I don’t. My husband does. He’s Catholic and even though he hasn’t been to mass in decades, his family still attends, and of course they think he married a heathen, which he did.
My maternal grandmother called us kids heathens because we didn’t go to church.
My paternal grandmother was Catholic, but she died young, so I never met her. She might have also called us kids heathens for not attending mass.
But my mother, a Pentecostal holiness Sunday School teacher, married my father, a Catholic. who left the church when the priest yelled at him for tithing in pennies.
So, they tried sending us to Sunday school, but it never took. We’d walk home and find them in their pajamas, hung over, and drinking coffee, on Sunday morning. Eventually we stopped going to Sunday school, but not before we learned about hell and brimstone and burning in hell for sins.
One Christmas, I joined my Catholic aunt and cousin and attended Mass. I stood, sat, kneeled, and listened to them recite words I didn’t understand. I left confused and angry. Why did religion have to be so difficult.
I said my prayers every night for years. One night, I got drunk and forgot and never remembered again to say my prayers. Then I sobered up and began praying again, not at bedtime, but at morning upon rising. I began thanking God, or whoever, instead of praying, now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep and should I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take. Or something like that. It always scared me that I might not wake, or I’d wake without a soul, whatever that was. Kids scare easily.
I began thanking God for my blessings. Thank you for my life. Thank you for letting me live. Thank you for that A in algebra. You know, thank you for my ability to breath and laugh and feel joy.
Then I went through a few years of debilitating depression.
I thanked God for letting me suffer, so I could realize what others experienced and be more sympathetic or empathetic or less judgmental about why they were a drunk, or drug addict, or homeless, or mean, or crazy. I learned through my suffering to understand pain and feeling helpless, hopeless.
Now it’s 62 years later, I’m a grown ass woman and I still don’t understand religion. Why can’t I decorate the house for the fourth of July with my candy canes and stockings and decorate a tree with firecrackers? Why do I have to make turkey and stuffing on certain days? Why can’t we eat tacos for the jolliest day of the year? Tacos are jolly. Why do we have to drink eggnog only in December? Why not drink eggnog every day? It’s delicious.
And the gifts and the greeting cards and the tree and the lights and the fat guy in a red suit. Why? Why do we spend money on things we don’t need or want because some commercial tells us we need a new big screen television with voice activated remote?
So, this year, no cards, no tree, no lights, no presents, no carols, no holly, no ho ho ho. I refuse to participate in something I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, his reindeer, or his no room in the Manger on oh, holy night.
My refusal to participate in organized religion makes me a heathen, but I do believe. I believe everyone has a right to celebrate their beliefs in whatever they want to wear, wherever they want to pray, and in whatever language they wish.
I practice the old ways. I burn sage and sweet grass and cook frijoles and tortillas and drink atole and thank the gods for my blessings. All the gods.
So, this holiday season, remember your friends, all of them, even the non-believers and respect their belief system. One world. One love.
p.s. Juliana has suffered from depression most of her life. About fifty years take a decade or two. She continues to believe in magic, miracles, angels, and healing. She tries to manage the holidays with humor but some years are more difficult than others. She hopes you found this illuminating, or at the very least, not too depressing, but remember she is after all, the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City.