I’m sick of Christmas,” my friend said. “Every year it’s the same thing. Shopping baking, writing cards, addressing envelopes, more shopping, decorating, entertaining, cooking the Christmas dinner…. The kids and grandkids always come to mom’s or grandma’s house for their Christmases. I have to do everything. It’s not like I’m the only one there—after all, I’m married. But does HE ever help? No. All he does is come home and enjoy the place. He thinks he’s done enough if he has to pull out his credit card.”
“It’s been the same since Christmas began,” I agreed theologically. “Mary (a woman, of course) did everything then, too. All Joseph did was lead the donkey, and I bet the reason they were too late for a room at the inn was because he wouldn’t ask for directions on how to get to Bethlehem.” “That’s right!” she asserted. “It’s time to take a stand. No more Christmases at my house unless somebody else does them!”
But I know she’ll finish writing the cards, and on Christmas Day, everyone will be over for turkey, presents, and pumpkin pie.
So many women feel overworked at Christmas. The holidays become just one more example of too much busyness and fatigue, and of the noblesse oblige required of those born female. The holiday becomes another of the endless Responsibilities of Women.
Those who buy their cookies and dinners, and order all their presents online to be direct-delivered, will say, “What’s the big deal?? Just don’t be so co-dependently dysfunctional, and don’t do what you don’t want to.” They’re right, of course—in part. But what they—and even the fatigued—forget is that certain things can’t be ordered from Target or Amazon. Some must be brought into the culture by the exertion and courage of women. Otherwise, family, tradition, and holy days become the domain of advertisers.
The mom, the grandmom, the aunt, the lady next door—they are the ones who bring the person-al into Christmas. For his reason, Christmas honors woman as much as it celebrates children. Its holiness and celebration were created and are perpetuated by women—from the First Event when the very young Mary had the courage to say Yes! to God in order to bring a new revelation of Love into the world, up to now when women daily say yes to the responsibility of traditions that create a haven of love in the family.
Another blessing sometimes forgotten by many women strangled by obligation, is the fact that women, by that very obligation, get to actually participate in the holy days in ways other than whipping but a credit card for online orders or mall purchases. Women do the preparations, and within the preparations exists a time to meditate about the event, as if, like monastics (albeit fanatic), they are forced to take time out from the mundane to actually be IN the holy season. Women’s actions become a holy ritual.
Even the frantic-ness of everybody’s demands—kids, husband, in-laws, co-workers, friends—is part of the celebration of each life for which the holy day is created. The kids underfoot are learning the rituals of love from the women who allow themselves to be interrupted and annoyed for the sake of teaching.
Through the generations, all the little girls who learned from grandmothers aged into the grandmothers who created the traditions that women now give to their children that they (who happen to be children today) will carry with them into the future of our culture.
Preparation for the holy days, as in each mundane act of living, is Love incarnate. These services and rituals, this flour-on-your-hands and envelope-glue-on-your-tongue kind of love—this is the priesthood of women. Although the drudgery of love never becomes part of theological doctrine, that love is the ritual that spun the original tapestry of life together, and now continues to repair its splits and tears.
How many people, Christians or otherwise, can quote any theological edicts, doctrines, or precepts developed by councils, popes, and bishops? And yet, who among us doesn’t remember the excitement of holiday preparations—glittering decorations, a scrap of wrapping paper leaving a hint of a wished-for surprise, the hot sweetness of cookies fresh off the cookie sheet, Christmas ornaments carefully unwrapped to appear again on the specially-chosen tree—all the memories created by actions of overworked women that make love smellable, tasteable, touchable, and sparkling?
There would be no Christmas without the first courageous teenaged girl who trusted God’s love enough to bring it to Earth as the body of an infant. And you, with your energy, endurance, and imagination, continue to bring God to Earth. You incarnate the Holy Days. Like Mary, you accept the responsibility of Love. Without you and your sacrifice of self-interest, without your offering of intelligence, energy, and soul, the culture would not only lose Christmas and holy days, it would lose its identity. Merry Christmas to all the Grandmothers of Nations.