How did you feel on Christmas as a JW child?
Outlaw - you are amazingly creative and funny as ever! I'm sorry you had your share of this type of experience.
Adjusted Knowledge - That's exactly what it's about. I don't care about the presents. But I'd love for the whole family to get together and celebrate. So show some appreciation for being able to be all together and live. To at least make it a celebration of life of nothing else.
Sour Grapes - Quite the thing isn't it? How fast can a nice life come crashing down and be ruined by a stupid cult. I was born in this ruin so I didn't get to experience this type of loss.
Finkelstein - Exactly!
Late Bloomer - Welcome! I quite enjoyed reading your novel. I've had very similar experiences. And yes, that's one of the worst things about JWs. They have absolutely no celebrations or joy in their lives. Conventions? Three days of hot boredom. Hell if you ask me. The memorial? Not a real celebration. Weddings? Maybe, but even then as you said they're quite somber and there are always some fanatical uber dubs that start complaining and ruin everyone's fun because they think the music or the dancing is too "worldly". As a JW kid you can little to look forward to.
Phaedra - You said something that resonates with me more than anything else. It's like the entire world is having a party that you aren't invited to. That's exactly how I felt and I still feel sometimes. Just like you, I still have family in and it still sucks. I'm also trying to avoid isolation these days, although it's not always easy. I wish you a Merry Christmas to you too!
Shirley - You didn't have it that bad. Kinda lucky!
StuckInaRut - Same here!
Belle - I'm glad you gave your child the opportunity to not suffer from this nightmare.
The first Christmas I remember was when I was 5 years old. My mother was a Witness and my father was Catholic. My father had a tradition of putting up the Christmas tree after all my sisters and brother went to sleep on Christmas eve. We got up early Christmas morning, before sunrise, went down to the living room and there was a huge tree with many wrapped presents underneath. The only lights on were the lights on the tree. It was still dark outside so it created such a beautiful glow in the room. I remember how excited I was. We woke up my mother and father to come out so we could open the presents.
Then, just before we started opening presents, I'll never forget what my mother said to me. Her words struck me so hard that I can still remember every detail of that moment. My mother and I were standing in the kitchen and I could see the tree glowing in the living room. There were no lights on in the house except the glow from the lights on the tree. She was wearing a flannel nightgown and I was in my pajamas. I remember exactly where I was standing and can still see the room frozen in my minds eye right down to the decorative white plate of hard "ribbon candy" on the round walnut table behind her. I looked up to her and asked "is it okay to open the presents?" She replied, in a very kind and sincere way: "You can celebrate Christmas but you know how Jehovah feels about that Paul!"
My world forever changed when I heard those words. I instantly felt so torn and guilty. I couldn't enjoy anything after that and started a long descent into depression. Things went downhill from there.
We live a short drive from the Mountains so lot of our Congregation and those in nearby Congregations went skiing on Christmas day. It was a beautiful drive up there and as we'd approach the ski areas it would often be snowing heavily. The whole lodge would be filled with JW's we knew or recognized from the assemblies. We had the place to ourselves until later in the day when all the Pagans showed up with their new Christmas skis and outfits. We did the same on New Years day and It was really fun and we looked forward to it.
The hard part for me was having to hide the fact that I loved Christmas songs, the Christmas TV specials and I thought the lights on the trees and the decorations and the treats were amazing. One year my little sister innocently asked my Mom if we could stop being JW's for one year and celebrate Christmas and then come back after it was over. I could tell my Mom was suppressing a smile as she laid out all the JW guilt producing reasons why doing so would make Satan happy.
During my elementary school years, it was not fun to have to go to the library or sit out in the hall when the class had it's Christmas party and exchanged gifts or to return to school after the holiday and not be able to talk about all the presents I got like the other kids. I could tell my teachers pitied me and felt badly about having to do this to me. That got easier as I got older. Sometimes my Mom would let us stay home on the day of the party and and she'd buy us some new clothes during the Christmas break when things were on sale. It was easier to show up at school with a new coat and some new clothes and let the kids assume they were Christmas gifts. There was guilt on my part for allowing them to think this was true instead of announcing that they weren't Christmas gifts because my family doesn't celebrate that pagan holiday and stick up for Jehovah like a good JW boy should have done. Cognitive dissonance made it possible for me to do this even though I deep down knew I was risking being destroyed at Armageddon and was not being like the 3 Hebrew boys Shadrach Meshach and Abednego .
All in all however, I can't complain about the JW/Christmas aspect of my childhood. I viewed our not celebrating Christmas much the same as our not celebrating Hanukkah....I never had either of them so I didn't miss them....just could have done with out all the guilt for thinking it was nice.
My experience was somewhat different because my mother who was the oldest of 7 living kids was born on her parents wedding anniversary. It happened to be the same week as Thanksgiving. Since every one of her siblings and their spouses and children are/were JW's we all gathered at my grandparents during Thanksgiving vacation.
There would be 3 days of cooking and visiting and playing with my cousins-fabulous for an only child like me. During Christmas vacation most of the family would get together again. Even though we didn't exchange gifts my cousins and uncle would play guitar and we would all sing "worldly" songs. (country, folk, and light rock) My musical aunts would play piano and sing as well. There was always a liberal amount of beer and homemade wine to keep the adults happy. :)
My fathers side would often get together during conventions or afterward and they were very musical too. His sister played the piano and dad played the sax and we all sang oldies. Booze and family made an otherwise abusive father happy for a change. Holidays were the best time in my life despite the lack of presents.
Now, only my cousins and their children, one aunt and uncle, their spouses and my mother are still alive. All shun me and my hubby since we quit being active JWs. That is when the sadness around the holidays came for me. But......for the first time in my life this year I :
Put up a Christmas tree and lavishly decorated it.
Attended my first Christmas party.
Gave and received my first Christmas gift.
Put up outdoor lights and decorations.
Baked holiday treats for my coworkers.
Since leaving the borg am happy during the holidays