This holiday is going to be different. Different from the holiday I grew up with. Different than the celebrationless non-holiday I lived with for twenty years. And different from the new traditions we established, my kids and I, as we pulled away from my wife’s religion. The pandemic affects everything.
I was born into a family of Iowa Methodists living in North Central Iowa in a tiny farm town called Rowan.
I remember Christmas being the most magical time of year. I believed in Santa Claus. I felt like the Christmas magic that we saw in seasonal specials on TV in black and white were so real… the realest reality there could be…even if Andy Williams wasn’t the host of the program. Candy canes and Christmas trees and sitting on Santa’s lap being terrified of getting it wrong… and making him think I was asking for a talking Chatty Kathy doll even though I was a boy… FOR MY SISTER, SANTA! FOR MY SISTER… Oh, gawd, that really went wrong. And we had family gatherings where we ate pot-luck family meals with Swedish meatballs and turkey and mashed potatoes with brown gravy and casseroles of fifteen different kinds and nuts and candy…eating ourselves into a semi-stupor as we also did only three and a half weeks before at Thanksgiving.
And presents. Everybody gave presents. And Christmas Carols in Church.
But time goes on. You grow out of believing in Santa Claus. You even grow out of believing in Andy Williams. Perry Como was better. And it was getting so commercial. And Christmas shows we loved as kids seemed so simple and lame when watched again as young adults.
And then I married a Jehovah’s Witness. If you are not aware of it, Christmas originated as a pagan holiday, the Roman Saturnalia. It was a night of feasts and orgies and excess. And Jehovah’s Witnesses believe their beliefs are the only true beliefs, and celebrating Christmas is of Satan. I celebrated Christmas for the last time in 1994. I married in 1995.
For the next twenty years I did not celebrate Christmas. At least, not out loud where Brothers and Sisters in the Truth could hear. And the season became very austere and sanitized for me by the religious integrity of those around me in the faith.
But there were friends in the faith that lost their faith and left the congregation permanently. And the people around me changed. And I was beset by illnesses, mine and my family’s. And Jehovah’s Witnesses are very good at helping the sick. But, apparently only for others, not me and mine. They began turning away.
I am probably disfellowshipped now. They have turned away from me, and I am now isolated from all those who used to be friends and acquaintances. My wife is still a member of the congregation. And this is good because she desperately needs to believe. It is a good life for her and keeps her relatively well. But I know they disfellowshipped me, even though nobody told me so like they always do in such cases. My wife barely talks to me now. And this is probably because members of the congregation are supposed to shun the disfellowshipped, even if they are family.
But I bare no one ill will. That may be part of the problem. The Bible directive is to “Hate what is bad.” And blood transfusions and psychiatry are both bad things according to the Witnesses’ understanding of Bible commands.
I didn’t need any transfusions, and though I have significant stress and diabetic depression, I was never hospitalized for that. But I did kinda fake some disfellowshippable offenses so that I would be the one, and my wife would still be able to be a Witness. She needs it more than I do.
And, to be quite honest, I need to feel a little bit of Christmas now in my old age and infirmity. After all, it is a holiday all about making sacrifices in order to give gifts to others. I know that this post will make Jehovah’s Witnesses cringe. But now that they are shunning me, I guess they won’t be seeing this anyway. And I wish them a Merry Christmas in spite of it all.