I basically grew up in foster homes. I had no family of my own . After my mother died, my father remarried and abandoned me to an institution and the foster home system.
I think I spent one Christmas with my father and his second wife before being institutionalized.
I don’t remember much about my childhood or teen Christmases. It’s unlikely they were of the story-book, fantasy kind, however. In Canada, we celebrate Boxing Day as well, which is the day after Christmas. I remember one singular visit from my father on Boxing Day when I was in the FHFH (“foster home from hell”). That being said, he could have visited more and I just don’t remember. I don’t even remember Christmases at the foster homes.
In early adulthood, after my first marriage fell apart and I was single, at Christmas I’d “borrow” another family to spend Christmas Day with. No-one should be alone at Christmastime. Other than that, I didn’t put up a tree or acknowledge it in any way. I didn’t really even have anyone to buy gifts for.
Eventually Christmas got a bit easier and I started celebrating it in small ways. A tree, some decorations, like Mr. and Mrs. Claus, antiques I inherited from my mother.
One year, a guy I was dating took it upon himself to meet with my father. I guess he was appalled at “my story.” My father gave him a token gift to give to me, I forget what it was. My boyfriend gave it to me Christmas morning and I burst into tears. Overwhelmed and in shock, I said to him: “You shouldn’t have done that, you shouldn’t have done that.” [I just remembered this and it happened years ago; seems like I’m pretty good at forgetting anything to do with my father.]
Still, I don’t get too attached to Christmas. More like, I go through the motions of it. The shopping, putting up a tree and other decorations, celebrations, and attending church services where there’s the usual mundane skit about “How many times can we re-tell the Christmas story in new, fresh & exciting ways.”
I spend Christmas and Boxing Day with my second husband’s family. I get a bit worn out by all the visiting. Typically on Christmas morning, the Christmas story from the Bible is read. One year instead I read a chapter from a Brennan Manning book. The chapter was called “Shipwrecked at the Stable”:
The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable. The great deception of television advertising is that being poor, vulnerable, and weak is unattractive. A fat monk named “Brother Dominic” is cute and cool because he conquers vulnerability and helplessness by buying into the competitive world with a Xerox machine.
The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant savior and a prosperity Gospel. The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can exactly say where. His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers, and dirt-poor shepherds. But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God. ~ Shipwrecked at the Stable, from “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” by Brennan Manning. You can read the full chapter here: http://thevalueofsparrows.com/2012/12/20/advent-meditation-shipwrecked-at-the-stable-by-brennan-manning/
One year at Christmas we stayed home because it was held a province away and we didn’t want to drive in unpredictable winter weather. Staying home that year was such a relief.
Mostly I’d just like to skip Christmas. Our massage therapist suggested to my husband we create new traditions of our own like attending the Nutcracker. Yeah, no. Ballet? Not a fan.
A tradition of Christmas I’d like to create is the one where I pull the covers over my head on December 24 and take them off on December 26. Especially this year. That’d be okay, right?