If you hadn’t noticed, the holiday season is upon us. While the holidays mean different things for all of us, for me it means Christmas. Or, rather, it means getting together with family and food while a Christmas tree, some lights, and the odd nativity scene are scattered around us. While the religious aspect of the holiday is central for a lot of people, Christmas is important to me for cultural reasons. Namely, it represents a time when we all uphold the tradition of bending over backwards to coordinate our schedules so that we have time to come together and focus on enjoying each other’s company. For the most part I love the whole holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot about Christmas that’s a total bummer. For example, the financial stresses of obligatory consumerism, the family-dinners-gone-wrong, and the inevitable groaning about hedonism taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas” is enough to make the jolliest of us want to spend the month of December in bed. However, because I’m determined to approach this holiday season with my positive foot first, I had the thought to take some things I associate with Christmas and use them to construct what I will hereby fondly refer to as Feminist Christmas.
The number one thing I love about Christmas is that it obliges humans to spend time with other humans. Families travel great distances to be together, coworkers get the chance to really get to know one another, and friends realize they’re actually a lot like family. As I try to fit another holiday gathering into my schedule, I’m overwhelmed by the incredible people I know and the loving communities that I’m a part of and, as I reflect on the past year, I’m amazed to think about how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who inspire, respect, and encourage me. If, traditionally, Christmas is about spending time with family, than a Feminist Christmas is about understanding how all the communities we are apart of make up our extended families and how the holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend a little time cherishing everyone who improves our lives (be they relatives or the person whose name you’re not really sure of but you always have a lovely time chatting with in the elevator). Feminism has never been fond of the “nuclear family” for a million reasons, but in part because our lives aren’t so simple or so compartmentalized. Celebrating the holidays shouldn’t remain within privacy of our homes – not when there’s a whole world of people out there to express our love to, dammit!
Another tradition I associate with Christmas is generosity. While this tends to come in the form of gift-giving, I think we can use this emphasis on generosity and focus it on being generous with each other. As an integral part of Feminist Christmas, generosity teaches us to respect each other and cherish all of our differences. Big picture, this can mean respecting the ways we all do or don’t celebrate the holiday season without all the xenophobia, racism, and prejudice that often dictates what the month of December “should” and “shouldn’t” mean. On a personal level, being generous towards others means respecting that Christmas is about Christ for many of those close to me. While adherence to the sanctity of Christmas for me means never drinking eggnog that doesn’t have rum in it, for a lot of my family members it’s an important religious and spiritual celebration. Learning to engage with religious traditions in a respectful way is an enormous part of how I work to express my love for my family every year.
While we’re talking about generosity, Feminist Christmas also encourages you to be generous with yourself. Gift-giving may be the most tenacious of all Christmas traditions and I think it’s important to see yourself on your Christmas list. I don’t necessarily mean this in regards to retail therapy (although, if that’s a productive and healthy way for you to celebrate yourself, why the hell not), but I think there are always ways we can take time to respond to our own needs and make sure we’re caring for ourselves as much as we’re caring for others. Self-care has always been important to feminism and other forms of social justice work because burn-out is a real and daunting barrier to overcome when we’re faced with the enormity of oppression. Audre Lorde eloquently states that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare” and her assertion reminds us that we do our best work when we are strong and we need to value ourselves in order to develop strength. I mean, if I plan on taking down the patriarchy next year I’m probably going to need to spend some time this Feminist Christmas making sure I’m my healthiest me.
In years past, I’ve found Christmas overwhelming, exhausting, and generally anxiety provoking. But I’m determined that Feminist Christmas is a possible, beautiful, and inspiring thing when we take what Christmas already gives us – like spending time together and being generous – and we use these values as a foundation for a holiday grounded in community, respect, and self-care. Maybe it’d be better titled “Feminist Holiday Season,” but Christmas is what I’ve grown up with and it’s what I’m passionate to reclaim and call my own. And, of course, Feminist Christmas would totally love to be best friends with Feminist Hanukkah, Feminist Kwanzaa, Feminist Winter Solstice, Feminist I’ve-Got-This-Week-Off-Work-Because-Statutory-Holidays?.. and whatever else you’re up to this December. I think, when it comes down to it, the whole point is to be compassionate towards one another and to hope for a holiday season that’s awesome and, at the very least, not totally shit.