Christmas represents so much to so many, and with good reason. It brings together people, food, gifts, lights, and presumably love, compassion and generosity. These are wonderful things with sweet sentiments behind them. But every year, I find myself conflicted and puzzled as to why we feel compelled to perpetuate traditions made by those who would see us banished.
Much of my young life was “going along” with things that were started by people not-so-long ago with ideas and beliefs that weren’t my own. In many cases, this is perfectly harmless, but when it comes to the holidays, the foundation, premise, practices, symbolism and ideologies almost always boil down to capitalism or some form of religion.
Growing up, I didn’t think to question them. It was just “what you did,” and I wasn’t even raised in a religious household.
Now at 35, as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” begins to fill the air as early as August, I start to think about young queer folk and how they’re feeling, thinking and growing.
How can I promise them a better future? One tailored for them? One that accepts and embraces them? The height of celebration every year is steeped in a swirling, contradictory soup of consumerism and Christianity, which simultaneously excludes and exploits them.
People throughout history celebrated the end of the year in a variety of ways, such as Yule and Saturnalia. In the 4th century, Pope Julius decided to essentially overwrite other winter festivals by declaring the birth of Jesus to be Dec.25.
Christmas literally means “Christ’s Mass,” and many people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum can point to moments in their pasts where family and peers made them feel unwanted, tarnished or just plain wrong for being themselves or even thinking about living any sort of life outside the teachings of a church.
Is it so strange to imagine a world where those who aren’t cis, white, hetero and Christian develop and promote our own forms of celebration for the end of each year?
We can still include the holiday comforts we love without the traditional framework that effectively keeps us boxed into a narrative not written by or for us. It’s easier to follow than to lead, but after a year like 2020, there’s no better time to leave behind what doesn’t serve us anymore.
League of our own
This isn’t about shaming anyone, stealing any joy or even changing anyone’s mind. As recently as last year, my partners and I celebrated Christmas, but I envision a new kind of celebration: one that’s just for us.
In the back of my mind, I see ribbons, trinkets, colors, names of those we love and those we lost. I hear new songs, see new movies, read new books and play new video games based on traditions my queer fam built from the ground up. These new traditions are free from ties to any oppressive belief systems or marketing schemes.
It’s tough to imagine sometimes, but there is a country beyond America, a time after the 21st century. It’s a world of sentimental expression and festivities beyond what the people in power devised, taught, funded and fed to us.
This is about more than liking or disliking Christmas songs. It’s more than just the tinsel or stockings and more than Santa drinking Coca-Cola with polar bears. This is about honoring the end of a cycle and the start of a new one.
This is about the future of our holidays. Queer holidays. Yours and mine. More than just Pride. If we have the strength and vision to reinterpret traditions put upon us, then imagine what we could build for ourselves, our families and our futures.
Happy Holidays, however you do it.
A version of this column ran in Q ATLus magazine. Read the latest issue online here:
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