And Saturnalia was a feast worth celebrating. Saturnalia was a time when all the slaves in Rome were set free, if only for a few days, and all their masters similarly discharged from their patrician responsibilities.
Here in the USA of the 20th century, Exxmas is quite the opposite. During Exxmastide we are ground down even more than before by our corporate masters.
Considering the five days paid vacation our family is getting between December 22 and January 2nd, I find your drawing up of "opposites" to be pretty strongly flawed here. But you are assuming we are all slaves to huge corporations other than the ones that employ us, I suppose.
I do not believe in your picture of corporate slavedom; it is not for me. I see it on the streets and in other peoples eyes, yes, and I am weary of it, but since already I do not participate in it, depriving myself of the joys of our family christmas celebration would do little to bring it down. A strategy for that needs to be better developed and full of propoganda for the masses, not this crowd you find before you.
Christmas is a time for Joy.
Christmas is a time for Cheer
Christmas is a peaceful feeling, lasting all the year.
I can love you.
My gift to you
Is that I do, I do.
(from A Star Wars Christmas, a record album we play every year to celebrate our christmas in the stars.)
Decorating the christmas tree, for my family, is a revisiting of our whole family history. The decorations we made together, that others made or bought for us, the different wrapping papers in the wrapping paper chain, and the memories they bring. And the whole house is made beautiful.
We traditionally lay in a very fancy feast on Christmas eve, with the silver and the crystal and candles and shining eyes all around, with much toasting of being together and being well for one more year. This feast rarely got served before midnight during my youth, but the nuts and fruitcakes and summer sausages and eggnog carried us through to it.
We are not a religious family, but I can appreciate the ideas behind the celebration of Christ's birth, for Christ is the icon of a gift, a gift of forgiveness and love for everyone.
As for physical gifts, I shop for those throughout the year, treasuring the anticipation of gift-giving as I travel and scour used book stores. One year I went to Russia in the spring and gave token gifts on my return... The delight and surprise of my family as I gave them saved gifts from that trip at Christmas and their birthdays throughout the year were priceless to me. This type of gift-giving symbolizes how much you think of someone during times of joy, sort of a "wish you were there" sharing.
But the greatest gift is opening your heart.
I agree with one part of the "not shopping" movement: time off at Christmas should be spent together at home, not in mindless drumming down the corridors of hideous malls and Wal-Marts. If you must go shopping, support your downtown businesses. And volunteering, I always support that. Go to your nursing homes and visit those who brought us here and are now too-often forgotten. And donate blood. In fact, to be useful at Christmas, donate blood now. Go on, give the gift of life. Other Christmas gifts are optional.
Try to focus on the joy of it all, because we're all beating the odds just by being here. As another song from that hokey album says,
(dum, dum, dum, )
The odds against Christmas being Christmas,
Are three hundred and sixty-five to one.
Christmas, you see, could have easily
Never, ever begun.
The odds against Christmas being Christmas, against love being born at all
Are so very large, that all other odds should seem terribly, terribly small.