This time of year is always a little strange for me. Since I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, my family didn't celebrate Christmas... or any other holiday for that matter. Memories of holidays make me think of school, and how I had to sit outside the classroom when others had fun inside. I guess I was always an "outsider". At least at the Christmas times, the Jewish boy had to sit in the hallway with me, so I had some company. Growing up this way was hard, and when I left home, I immediately started celebrating all holidays including my birthday.
That said, I was also very poor and was living on the streets or squatting in abandoned buildings after leaving home, so I never had the money to really celebrate anything. The money I did manage to get went directly to getting drunk so I could sleep at night. So it wasn't until after my daughter was born and we were living in a real apartment before I got my first Christmas tree. It was a funny one too ~ all fake, so we spray painted it neon green and hung it upside-down and then hung baby-doll heads as ornaments. Not really a typical holiday set-up, but we enjoyed it.
I guess I could never truly get into the "holiday spirit" because I've always seen it as a consumeristic holiday... and I've never had much in the way of money. It seems to be all about the presents, and the stress of it all has driven a few of my friends into serious depression. I also get a little jealous that others have their families to celebrate with and my family won't even speak to me. So this time of year is always a little hard and in past years I've been a bit of a scrooge and have hated much about it.
When I met my Jewish hubby 14 years ago, we decided to let my daughter pick which holiday she wanted to celebrate this time of year... and she picked Hanukkah. So we have a very sweet family tradition of lighting candles and saying prayers for those 8 nights... and that's about it. I also have my own celebration for Winter Solstice... because it makes sense to me to celebrate the sun being out longer on such short days!! (especially here in Oregon where it's so grey all the time anyway)
This year I'm trying something a little different, and instead of finding faults and hating this holiday... I'm trying to find all the goodness that people create because of it. I don't have to hate my family for being who they are... I can love them for who I've become.
**Note the photo... JW's used to celebrate Christmas, although they've gone through great lengths to cover up this fact from their modern-day followers. It's one reason I love technology ~ you just can't keep those kind of secrets from the masses anymore.