Holidays are hard for me. Everywhere I look I see families getting together to celebrate, carry on or start new traditions, and overall enjoy each other’s company.
I don’t have that in my life. It makes me feel out of step, isolated, alone, and a bit of a freak.
My family does not celebrate any holidays or birthdays due to their religious beliefs. I don’t judge them for that; this country was based on religious freedom for all and this is what they believe to be the only true religion. I was raised this way since my 2nd birthday, so I don’t remember the few holidays we did celebrate, so I have never known anything different.
It was really hard for me once I started school. Before then, the only other children I knew all believed like we did and I never had any reason to question it. But once I was in school, there were all of these activities that I was not allowed to participate in. Do you realize that almost all holidays are celebrated during the school year? Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. It’s pretty much at least one per month. Every single time one came up, there were activities I was excluded from. Every single time I was given the third degree by my classmates and teachers alike. “How come?” they always asked. I would just shrug and say something like, “It’s against our religion.” Or, “Because my mom says I’m not allowed to.” My mom would usually meet with my teacher every year to explain the reasons why, and many of my teachers were very understanding and would find some other activity for me to do instead of the holiday themed project everyone else was doing. I hated that so much.
I don’t like to stand out in a crowd. It makes me uncomfortable. And you know your life sucks when the Jewish kids, who were often made fun of because they didn’t celebrate Christmas, made fun of you for not celebrating Christmas. When I lived in Mustang, Oklahoma, all three schools - high, middle, and elementary – combined to put on one big Christmas play. We were shuttled to the high school by bus several times a week to rehearse and practice the play. I sat out in the audience area and just watched. How I longed to be up on stage, to sing and act with the others. I could care less about what the play was for; I just wanted to participate, to belong. Also, I really loved to sing, dance, and act! I really wanted to be an entertainer of some sort when I grew up, and I ached to be on the stage, performing.
When junior high and high school rolled around, it was a bit easier although kids could be a lot more crewel with their taunts. My favorite retort about not celebrating Christmas was to ask someone how long they had to wait to get something they really wanted. Had they been drooling over it since May? I never had to wait for something I really wanted. If my parents knew that there was something I really wanted, they bought it for me. No waiting for my birthday or Christmas. I will admit, that was pretty nice.
I “drifted away” from the church in my early 20’s, once I was out on my own. It was purposeful; I meant to do it. I never really wanted to be in this, or any, religion. I was baptized when I was 16 out of fear; fear of disappointing my mother (not God) and my sister; fear of being rejected by my peers and friends in the church; fear of never being allowed to get married. I was engaged to be engaged to a young man and I loved him with all my heart. But our parents would never allow us to be married if we both were not baptized. He believed in this religion and went willingly; I thought that eventually, if I was married, I would eventually be able to accept this religion in my heart, so I went outwardly willingly, but inwardly against my will. A year and a half later he left me for a woman 16 years our senior; they have been happily married and very active in the church’s ministry for over 25 years now. My mother thinks that this is what caused the rift between me and religion; I cannot get her to accept that it was merely one more weight on the already out of balance and tipping scale.
All of my co-workers throughout the years seem to talk endlessly about their holiday plans with their families; some complain about having to travel or the enormous amount of cooking or shopping they have to do, but they all have this…this thing...this thread…in common with each other. The radio, TV, internet, blogs, craft sites, magazines, super markets, department stores – you can’t get away from the holidays; there is nowhere to go that isn’t saturated in decorations, sales, recipes, seasonal foods, music, etc.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t feel offended by the holidays; I feel…envious. Not of the gifts, or what the holidays are actually celebrating (or think they are celebrating), but the traditions, the belonging.
I also don’t blame my religious upbringing or the religion itself. I blame myself for not standing up for myself at an earlier age; making my mother understand that this just was not for me. My father was raised as a child in the same religion (by sheer coincidence) but never committed to it and was not involved in it as I was growing up. I was often pouty because I wanted to stay home with Dad instead of going to church. When I was about 12 or so and really chafing under my mother’s religious constraint, I vowed that when I turned 16 that I would stand up to her and I knew that my father would have my back about my freedom to make my own choice in the matter. That was snuffed out, however, by my father’s untimely death from an aggressive cancer two weeks after my 14th birthday. I tried throwing myself into the religion, hoping it would be like an arranged marriage and that I would soon come to accept it and love it like I saw others doing all around me. But my heart seems to remain like a stone, non-absorbent.
I feel like a little wooden rowboat without oars, adrift in a harbor filled with party boats. No one sees me. No one hears me. I am unnoticed and doomed to be torn asunder by a speeding pleasure craft.