The big deal for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses
For most folks the holiday period; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween (and we’ll throw in Birthdays too) are fun, joyous, family occasions of celebration and jovial sillyness.
But for an ex-Jehovah’s Witness it can be a time of hopeless confusion; you almost feel like a foreigner in an unfamiliar land. I suppose you could liken it to a visit to Japan, aside from the recognisable adverts for Sony, JVC, and so on, the differing script is unintelligable and confusing.
Since I was disfellowshipped some 9 years ago, I have attempted to ‘get in to the spirit of things’ by throwing myself in to everything. Mainly for my kiddies, but also for my wonderful Wife and her lovely family. Christmas is rightly a big deal for them. If you’re doing it right it should remind us that family is more important than material belongings! And the pleasure from giving a gift and seeing the persons reaction is very rewarding.
But for me, and I suspect for many ex-JW’s it is still a slightly unfamiliar and frustratingly confusing concept.
I don’t know the words to any of the songs, of course I know bits of Jingle Bells and so on, and I do recognise the songs. But that is where my knowledge ends. Christmas Participant Level = NOVICE.
But there is another problem too. I am an Atheist, so I struggle to learn the words to any of the songs that include Christ, God, the Virgin Mary and so on. Although I believe at one time there might have been a really nice Jewish guy that helped some folks at one time. I believe the Jesus in the bible is a figment of the Jewish people’s collective imagination. No disrespect meant to any family members that are believers.
So for me learning the songs goes like this, we’ll go with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley founder of the Methodist Church in 1739:
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King! (Hmm but he didn’t exist…)
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God (Wait, what? There is no ‘god’) and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ (look we’ve covered this, he was a figment of the Jewish imagination) is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King! (oh for goodness sake, are we still going on about this imaginary sky fairy?)“
So you see my problem? By the time I have gotten past the first verse, the song is over.
Now usually this wouldn’t be an issue, but this year I have readily agreed to go along to the Carols at the local Church. A special place for my Wife’s family (and by default also for me) as her dear late Mother, and other loved ones are buried there. As noted earlier my Christmas Participant Level is Novice, so I am worse than my older three children. It is panic inducing!
But it doesn’t stop with the Carols. Nope, it’s the praying too. I want to scream out “What are you retarded?” when the very nice Vicar says things like ” Jesus died for your sins”. Not good.
But let’s move away now from the whole songs thing and get to the big day.
Every year for the past 7/8 years I have tried really hard to enjoy the festivities. I love it when the kiddies open their presents, of course, but the “Ooh look what Santa got me Mum” does my frickin head in! I have to stop myself from saying “Err no, that Furby cost me a bloody fortune!” or “You’d better bloody look after that Camera, it cost Grandad a lot of money!”
But what is the most difficult part of all is that each and every Christmas I feel a sense of sadness, of childhood lost, of not being able to have a normal family life. It is almost like grieving in a way. To top it even though my brother and one of my sisters are no longer “in the truth” they have no contact with me. So for me, Christmas is all about family, fun and frolicks. But I only have the one side and as lovely as they are, they are not blood and flesh. Not that my siblings have ever bothered with it really when they did communicate with me. It’s weird but it is only at this time of the year, at this holiday that I feel this way.
It is compounded too really, because where I grew up not celebrating anything, all of my cousins who live an hour or so away by car are not included in ours either (we send cards) and this is no blame apportioned upon them either. But we are not as close as we should be because we hardly associated as kids. I never went to their Christmas, New Years, or Birthday parties. I never sent them a card. And now we all have our own families and responsibilities (I hardly even know their children and them me), and because I have five of my own (one of whom is autistic so travelling any distance is nigh on impossible at the moment) it is practically impossible to visit them so I feel a massive sense of loss with regard to associating at what I personally consider an important time to reinforce family to my children.
It is also difficult because as lovely as my Wife’s side of the family are, it must be a daunting proposition to think if they pop over they have to bring presents for all of the kids. NOT TRUE! Please if you are reading this, just a visit would be more than enough!
So, that’s silly old me! I love Christmas, I don’t celebrate anything other than the gathering of family and enjoyment of the company that brings, but I now appreciate its importance.
So I am going to do my very best to learn the words, or print them off and sing with gusto! For Christmas 2012 it would be nice to feel normal, to enjoy it without a sense of sadness. To see my children’s joy shared by all of their family.
Merry Christmas everyone.