Signs of a Delusional Mind
These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
a foundation, pt 2
Please note, this is the second post of a four-part series.
While not the incident that altered my view toward the holidays, Christmas of 2008 certainly did play a part in my already shifted perspective. That particular winter, December was nearly unrecognisable; the first weekend of that twelfth month did not witness the setting up and decoration of my parents' tree. Unlike the yards outdoors covered in thick, white snow, my parents' living room was bare of holiday ornaments. December 20 found my family and I leaving on a plane to spend Christmas and New Years with my mother's family in Nicaragua - a trip especially difficult for me as I would leave my fiancée of seven months behind for those eleven days.
December in Central America is a stark contrast to December in Manitoba. While there, we experienced temperatures ranging from 32-38° C (89-100° F).1 Conversely, a December in Winnipeg sees temperatures averaging at about -32° C (-25.6° F). Needless to say, there is no snow to be seen in Nicaragua - but I did spot at least one Latino Santa Claus, which was a rather humorous scene to behold. Celebrations there consisted of a midnight meal, interrupted by an exciting display of fireworks set off all around the neighbourhood so it sounded like a war zone - but looked like a colourful, repeatedly blooming garden. There were no devotionals read, but there was a church service - which we did not end up going to, although my grandma naturally did. But there was gift-giving. And of course, there was a decorated tree. It was tucked away into a corner of my grandma's sitting room, but it was there in its colourful holiday splendour.
While our celebration of Christ's birth followed a similar framework to what we had grown up knowing - albeit with modifications and a distinctly genuine Latino flavour - returning home to Canada found me feeling like we had missed Christmas altogether. Perhaps it was the fact that I lacked my soon-to-be wife. Perhaps it was that our celebrations lacked familiarity. Perhaps it was that I did not receive any Biblical input that Christmas night.
My current opinion is that my Christmas-discontent resulted from a combination of these three. The fact that my fiancée was not with me led me to experience natsukashii and in some ways caused me to neglect a bit of what was going on.2 The fact that we were in a foreign culture, celebrating God's entering into space and time in an alien way led me to gloss over the event as I attempted to drink it all in. And the fact that we did not Biblically recognise the significance of our celebrations - at least not outwardly, in a spoken, formal manner - led me to feel like we were simply having a 'family fun night.'
It became my realisation that Christmas for me meant more than Christ's birth. Christmas had come to encompass, in an essential way, the gathering of family, the meals, the games, the decorations, the gift-giving, the days off - all the rituals, tastes, smells and sights that everyone experiences in one way or another - and these customs were beginning to share, if not usurp, the beats to the heart of this Christian season. They were in fact becoming the most recognisable and the most easily distinguishing characteristics of Christmas.
Undoubtedly, Christmas itself, for the majority of people, has also come to be jumbled with a variety of ideas and an assortment of celebrations. Christian tradition piously feeds us all sorts of different notions as a result of its assimilation of pagan rituals - pagan rituals which, while aiding in the promulgation of generations of Christians, in turn has resulted in an impurification of Christian thought, practise and tradition. It is a surprisingly unknown fact that Christianity is layered with unbiblical influences - its theology affected by outside philosophies, its doctrines skewed by surrounding cultures - all setting Christ's attempts at reviving and re-inventing Judaism, the faith of God's people, to an off-center tilt.3 Indeed, the faith of the Christ-followers' is wobbling at best.
1. Granted, we did experience colder, but it was only when we did sightseeing 1 344 m (4 409 ft) atop the volcano Mombacho - where it fell to a breezy 18° C (64° F).
2. Natsukashii is the Japanese term for 'homesickness' and 'longing.' It is an existential descriptor for the pining we feel toward something or someplace - that is, it implies more than merely an emotional dissatisfaction and instead denotes a yearning within the being itself. It is not nostalgia in the sense that English generally understands it - as a sentimental and wistful feeling - but is an experience of emptiness, of being without. See Elaine MacInnes' Zen Contemplation for Christians: A Bridge of Living Water (Sheed and Ward, 2003) for her brief discussion in the first chapter.
3. It is also surprisingly overlooked that Jesus did not intend to create a new religion, but instead, God, through His Son, was attempting to revitalise and renew - to revolutionise - the Israelite system of faith.