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Christmas is something of a paradox for me. Like many people, it is one of my favorite times of the year, and that's not just because there are three holidays in close succession to each other (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day). Not because there is always lots of good food to eat (with my family, anyway--a curious mixture of traditional and Tex-Mex food thanks to our ancestors emigrating from Germany to south Texas). Not even because of the gifts that are given and received about this time of year. I think it's just because, for a few weeks, people have a tendency to be just a little bit friendlier than usual.

But what about the paradox? you're thinking. Well, having grown up in a fundamentalist Christian church (the Church of Christ--no, no, don't hit the back button yet, I'm not going to start preaching), I was taught very early on that there is no evidence that Jesus was born on Christmas Day, and that non-Biblical sources point to some other part of the year, possibly spring or early summer. Besides that, the only day that we are told to celebrate is the first day of each week, in memory of the day that Jesus was resurrected. Of course, some people take this to extremes, not only not celebrating Christmas, but not observing birthdays or any other holidays either--just ask the Jehovah's Witnesses. Even within the Church of Christ there are a few families here and there who abstain from any kind of special celebration during the Christmas season--something which I was a little shocked and very puzzled to learn when I was a young boy. No gathering of the family? No gifts? No food?! Just because they don't want anyone to think they're celebrating Jesus' birthday? "Well, that's just silly," is the opinion I gave my mother when I heard this at about the age of 7 or 8.

No, there are no angels on my Christmas tree. I still feel a little uneasy sometimes singing Christmas carols about Jesus' birth, but then I just remind myself, heck, I could be singing this song at any time of the year, it would still have the same meaning. There are no special masses or other religious services, though we may say a special silent prayer for cold weather--it's a real drag having hot weather at Christmastime.

And we will gather from our scattered places across the state and converge on the home of one of our elders--grandmother or grandfather, father or mother. We will feast, and share gifts, and tell tales and jokes, maybe watch a videotape or play some 42. And what if someone wants to sing Christmas carols? Fine, let them. Because, "where two or three are gathered together there am I in their midst," as Jesus said, and if they want to sing a few songs about his birth, he probably doesn't mind.

So, if you are celebrating a traditional Christmas--
Merry Christmas!
If you are of the Jewish faith--
Happy Hannukkah!
If you are of some other faith (or non-faith) and don't celebrate at all, well--
Have a nice day.
And, if you are of a pagan tradition celebrating the ancient Yuletide Festival--
(and I must say this is my own personal favorite seasonal wish)
Let the revels begin!