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Getting "In the Spirit"...Whatever that Means: Part II

The "Science Geek" part of Catholic Science Geek
I had to go to the lab right up until December 23rd because of a few 5 week-long autorads I had to start running before New Years. It's pretty crazy how I started thinking so far ahead into my future when it comes to experiments. You see, I had to do these last minute autorads on the 23rd because this way, I have 2 sets of autorads I can analyze the last week of January. This week of analysis can then be directly followed by the analysis of two more autorads I will start up the day after tomorrow. That's two autorads I will analyze the first week of February, followed by several weeks of presentation writing and tweaking and then a Society of Toxicology meeting in March. As I wait for these to develop, I get to work on another presentation and start slicing some more brains for a later analysis. If this paragraph didn't make sense, just consider it a very busy breakdown of just how much I have to finish and plan for between now and March.
"Believe" in what, exactly?

Science aside, it was a pretty "meh" week. Everywhere I went, I was assaulted by "holiday-themed" Macy's ads, and more tinsel and more shiny baubles than I ever want to see again. Penn Station turned into a large contradiction. On one hand, the eye was assaulted by large, gaudy "holiday" decorations. On the other hand, it was assaulted by the many homeless shadows that lurk in the corners and away from the attention of the many home-bound travellers with piles of luggage and wrapped presents.

At every corner, there were parents taking pictures of kids in front of these displays. There were images of women appearing to have fits of ecstasy as they clung to their large strands of pearls and glittery clutches. I normally don't mind ridiculous adverts such as these, but they become depressing when you tack them on to a holiday such as Christmas. Why? Well, it takes all the meaning out of it. There is no story of salvation in walls plastered with advertisements. There is no humility in 30ft Christmas trees towering over the center of a train station, where the homeless gather to catch some sleep in the waiting area...only to be rudely woken up and thrown out so some people can place bag upon bag of presents on those seats. I know those security officers are only doing their jobs and I know that these seats are meant for paying customers...but these sights are depressing and disgusting.

I find myself sitting on the subway one of these days and, at some stop, a self-proclaimed Virginian comes on and sits behind me. She's wearing a red Santa hat and saying happy holidays to everyone. No one really talks to each other on the subway...so it came to no surprise to me that no one replied to her holiday greetings. She gets into a huff about this, complaining about how no one is "in the spirit." She complains about how everyone gets "in the spirit" in Virginia. She then proceeds to say that, in America, people should celebrate Christmas. One rant leads to another, and she is then complaining about how no one celebrates Christmas anymore because of the immigrants from other places coming to the US with other religions. She then starts singing "Jingle Bells" loudly and complaining about everyone's lack of spirit.

If just wearing a Santa hat means you're
 in the true spirit of Christmas....then these
thumbs-up humanists are in
for a rude awakening....once their faces stop
hurting from the cheesy over-the-top smiles.
At some point during the ride, she notices that a young Latina in the back of the train is wearing a light-up Santa hat monstrocity. She gets her attention, after loudly shouting "FELIZ NAVIDAD" off the top of her lungs as she tries to get this girl's attention. Lack of PC aside,  I must note that this Virginian is badass for being able to speak her mind on a train without fear. That is something I could never do. However, I did have half the mind to tell this woman that she was getting it all wrong as far as "the spirit" went. I wanted to tell her that Santa hats and "Jingle Bells" were probably farther from the true meaning of Christmas than immigrants she kept yelling about and their respective religions. However, I didn't have the guts to do so. I also didn't have the guts to tell her that her ideas of the "holiday spirit" had  nothing to do with bells, decorated pine trees, piles of wrapped gifts, candy canes, etc.

 I don't talk on the subway train unless I feel comfortable enough to do so. Thus far, I've only been comfortable enough to talk to a homeless angel-in-disguise and the cutest Jewish kids ever. Based on how uncomfortable I felt around this woman, I was not talking to her at all...not even to return her "holiday" greetings.

If Christmas was only about wearing Santa hats and singing Jingle Bells...then I probably would not have a problem with all of the tinsel and talking reindeer movies. All these decorated trees, stockings, presents, etc. are merely empty symbols these days. They are symbols that probably had some link to Christmas, the solstice, Channukah, etc. at some point in history long before they became some money-making venture. They are symbols that probably meant something before people turned them into the central part of this holiday season.

We may want to forget about Christ in order to make a holiday party more politically correct. We may not put up a creche in order to prevent offending someone's sensibilities. However, when we turn all of the materialistic crap into the center of Christmas...it loses its meaning. It is no longer the celebration of salvation...but a day of giving, getting, buying, and attempting to fill up that big void that's been growing in our hearts since childhood.

I don't know about everyone else out there, but this "season" has become more and more bleak for me as the years go on. As I've gotten older, I have started feeling that "holiday" spirit less and less over the years. It may sound terrible for me to say this...but I felt nothing this year until I got home and saw my family for the first time in several weeks. I felt something when I got to see the excitement of my little cousins when we went to see them for the first time in months. I felt something while walking to Christmas mass (more on this to come). I felt something when I joined my family in the making of our traditional foods and sweets for the consoada. Yet, all of these moments were fleeting. Even the traditional consoada meal, in and of itself meaningless without the big story behind it.

Perhaps this is why there are people out there that are fighting to keep the "Christ" in Christmas." Yet, I cannot help but feel that even these people are missing the point. There are probably more people out there complaining about a mayor calling something a "holiday tree" instead of "Christmas tree" than there are people actually sitting in that town's churches on a typical Sunday. There are probably more people at Penn Station with presents in tow than there were people at Penn Station that even bothered to acknowledge the dignity of all the sleeping homeless lining the corners of the train station. How can I see all of this and still be expected to get "in the spirit?"

Pax Vobiscum

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