What I Celebrate at Christmas by Carol P. Christ

Though I have not been Christian for many years, I love to decorate my house for the holidays. I have many decorations that I have collected over the years, including a Hummel angel gazing at the Christ child that was my father’s mother’s and a small crocheted Christmas tree given to me by my mother. My Christmas tree is a living one in a pot, and I usually manage to keep it alive on the balcony or outside for several years. One of my hobbies is collecting ornaments for the tree. Among my favorites are glass icicles and snowflakes crocheted by my friend Alexis many decades ago. There are white doves and brown birds that land on the tree branches and glass balls that have come into the stores again in recent years.

Christmas tree and newly laid carpets

During the years I lived in Lesbos I was always invited to my friend Birgitt’s for a German Christmas Eve dinner with many of her friends. The meal began with fresh cured salmon (gravadlax) with dill sauce prepared by Swedish Christina, followed by meat and and all the trimmings—once it was wild boar and another time venison, but more often beef or turkey. I always brought a spinach salad with pomegranate seeds and special dressing from the Silver Palate cookbook. For dessert there was German Christmas cake called stollen made with nuts, spices, and candied fruit, covered with powdered sugar, as well as a variety of German Christmas cookies and chocolates. On Christmas day, I often went out to a restaurant on with other friends and feasted on Symrna style lamb stuffed with rice, raisins, pine nuts, and parsley, sweetened with orange juice.

Among my most treasured childhood memories are holiday meals at mother’s mother’s house. There were usually too many of us, including cousins and great aunts and uncles, to fit into the dining room, so tables were set up in the living room. We children ran around outside, and when we tired of that, played Canasta using many decks, as well Pig, Hearts, and Old Maid. The youngest children always lost. There were peacocks from the Arboretum calling from the roof and strutting around the garden. After a few hours the table was laden with scrumptious food, usually turkey, followed by mince and pumpkin pies. We listened intently when Great-uncle Emery told stories about growing up on the farm in Michigan.

A few days ago I was surprised when a friend remarked that she had no plans for Christmas and added somewhat dismissively that she didn’t celebrate Christmas. This got me to thinking.

My mind was drawn back to a post I had seen on Facebook a few days earlier.

I had re-posted it, adding, “I was lucky to have a mother who loved all of us kids very much. No wonder I continue the tradition of decorating the whole house for Christmas or for me now the winter holidays!” I was also lucky to have had a grandmother whose family gatherings provoke many fond memories to this day.

This year during quarantine in Greece, I was invited for lunch on the 24th by my German friends Barbara and Hatta in their new “bolt hole” apartment in Heraklion, which just so happens to be across from a bakery where I bought Christmas cookies, recorded as the reason I had ventured out of my home. My new American friends Jack and Angie and I had hoped to share a delicious meal on Christmas day, consisting of goat stew with rice, pork with potatoes, cabbage and lettuce salad, beets, greens, tzatziki, fava bean dip, sheep cheese, and dakos, Cretan bread with olive oil, tomato, and feta, but because the catering service was closed on the 25th, we met on the 26th. Although visiting friends is restricted to December 25 and January 1, we were able to meet because I fall into one of the few categories of people who can be visited: person in need (because of my cancer).

As Barbara and Hatta had laid the carpets that had been rolled up and standing in the hallway since I moved in June a few days earlier, my new apartment was warm and inviting and of course decorated to the “t.” We could not finish all the wonderful food that was delivered to us, but we saved room for Angie’s homemade tiramisu.

The Christmas table was even more laden. This is a photo of the meal from the same caterer that Barbara and Hatta brought two weeks before Christmas.

The Hummel angel that was originally my father’s mother’s

Crocheted Christmas tree given to me by my mother, with her Madame Alexander doll dressed in Swedish costume with Santa Lucia candle crown

Christmas for me is remembering my mother’s and grandmothers’ love and enjoying good food with family or friends. I wouldn’t miss any of it for all the world. And I am so grateful to have have been able to celebrate this year despite the quarantine and my illness.

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

Categories: Christmas, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Friendship, General, Goddess Spirituality, Motherhood

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11 replies

  1. Oh! I enjoyed reading this so much. Beautifully written. Glad you were able to have a Merry little Christmas despite quarantine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your new home, decorations, and celebrations are so lovely and warm! Thank you for sharing them with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How much I appreciate being invited into your beautiful – and I mean beautiful home and life…What is it about this kind of sharing that facilitates intimacy and strengthens relationships even online?

    All I know is that I love participating.

    I am particularly glad that you found joy and good friends this year.

    Like you I always have a living tree – although I decorate it with crystals from an old chandelier belonging to my grandmother/aunts I also add different ornaments according to whim… Some old ornaments I leave in boxes because the memories are painful – This year i dressed my indoor Norfolk Island pine in lichens from the trees and a prayer from the Navajo Night Chant – this is a very fluid process fro me – but the tree and the wreath I make myself are the centerpieces in my little cabin.

    I think my real mom must have been a tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One is never too old to create magic during the holiday season. Happy New Year and may you find yourself cancer free in 2021. 🙏🌟

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m glad you have so many good memories of Christmases Past and Present. I also have fond memories of family holidays. What I celebrate now is the solstice. It’s possible that Jesus–a solar god like Mithras?– was really born in the spring, and we know that in 354 CE Bishop Liberius of Rome moved the birthday of Jesus to match that of Mithras. We’ve got lots of winter holidays, including Kwanzaa, to celebrate. Hooray! Winter blessings to us all.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this delightful post, Carol. Your memories of Christmases past are heartwarming. It’s good to know you celebrate the season for your own reasons.

    My own family of jolly atheists always celebrated Christmas as the Pagan holiday it actually is. This tradition continued when I grew up, married, and had children of my own. For me, of course, Winter Solstice has nothing to do with the Christian concept of the season, but I love everything about this time of year: the lighting of symbolic fires in the form of candles and Christmas tree ornaments against the darkness, the gift-giving, the songs, and the feasts. It has always seemed to me that people are a little nicer because “it’s Christmas, after all,” and I love it.

    May you flourish and continue to share the season with good friends!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A lovely read. Just what I needed to read today, in fact, at this very moment. Thanks for sharing! Goddess bless you in the New Year & many years to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As a Wiccan married to an atheist with a single Wiccan daughter, we have celebrated Christmas for years as a secular holiday. We usually invite the part of my family that lives nearby (also pagan) and a Jewish friend plus a former colleague of my spouse’s. What’s traditional is the meal and gift-giving.

    This year we couldn’t get together as in the past. But I wanted to eat my favorite part of the meal: Mohawk Valley dressing (we both come from the Mohawk Valley in Upstate NY), really a savory bread pudding. Then my spouse added gravy, which really needs to accompany the dressing. In order to make gravy we roasted a chicken. And my spouse made a fantastic apple pie (we’ve had apple pie for breakfast until this morning). So we satisfied our palates.

    When it came to gift-giving, we were able to watch as our great-niece and great-nephew as theyopened the gifts we brought them through a glass door on their back porch. The gifts — as usual — came from our closets or drawers, recycled, but in good shape. Watching their joy satisfied our desire to know our gifts were appreciated. Then we spent an hour-and-a-half with my sister and her spouse also on a porch, but this time heated with a window cracked so we could hear them. Finally I phoned my Jewish friend and talked for an hour. It was a lovely Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks, Carol, for your description of your holiday celebration. It inspired me to write about my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It warmed my heart reading that you had such a wonderful Christmas time, even with Covid, it seems that you are surrounded with lovely friends. Wishing you a healthy and inspiring New Year filled with Love.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mothers and Christmas magic–isn’t that the truth!
    If it was up to the men, Christmas would be a sorry celebration indeed!
    Not to mention all the other holiday celebrations, family gatherings, etc! (That’s speaking generally, of course. I’m sure there are guys out there who step up.)

    Liked by 1 person

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