When it comes to the holidays, unfortunately I am a CEO. For those who are unfamiliar with this acronym, it stands for “Christmas and Easter Only.”
My attendance at church didn’t used to be this way. My dad got us up and out of the house every Sunday morning to listen to our minister, sing hymns and dunk a nice chunk of sourdough bread into grape juice (for the kids) on communion days.
But this faded, down to only the bare bones — the Christian staples — like Christmas. As un-Presbyterian as this is of me, and as disappointed as it makes my dad, it doesn’t mean that Christmas itself has lost its meaning. The holiday is more about family than re-enacting the story of Jesus’ birth, like I did in fourth and fifth grade as the Virgin Mary for two consecutive years at my church.
Those Christmas pageants were fond holiday memories. I like to think that I was the best Mary my congregation had ever seen. I look back on the pictures proudly, but it’s by no means what I remember — and love — most about Christmas.
Christmas Eve is one of the only times that my family gets together with my cousins and grandmother. When we gather, we always seem to pick up right where we left off, reminiscing about past celebrations and laughing about the same old jokes.
The “kid table” is reserved for my two sisters, our cousin and me, where (we’re pretty sure) the adults sitting nearby look on at us enviously because we’re telling stories, like the time our other cousin so infamously tipped over a potted plant and dumped dirt all over my grandma’s white carpet, or the skits we used to perform after dinner using weird things like back-scratchers that we found in my mom’s childhood room at my grandma’s house.
Now, with my sister home from college, and the knowledge that this will be my last Christmas before leaving home, it’s bound to be a memorable one, but one essentially identical to the past 17.
Christmas loses some of its significance with my lack of church attendance. Only going to church a few times a year means it feels less and less like a community than it would if I were to go more regularly.
Fortunately, when I do go to church at Christmas, the congregation is remarkably welcoming. Belting out holiday hymns with my sisters gets me thinking that maybe it is worth the trip every Sunday.
Who knows, maybe I will become more of a regular. That’s the power of Christmas.