Christmas TreeThis year, Paul and I are going to my daughter’s house, probably on Christmas Eve, since that way young Michael won’t have to wait for us to get there later on Saturday, before he can open presents. My daughter Theressa likes to cook and has a special meal planned. Paul and I are going to pay for most of it, since their funds are pretty tight these days, her husband is waiting to get a new kidney. He has not been cleared yet to return to work.

But mostly, I worry about those people who will suddenly find themselves without any financial resources in the middle of this winter… how will they feed their children and pets? What will they do for shelter? Do they have family or friends who will take them in? And how miserable is it for children not to be able to celebrate with a few presents… whatever holiday it is that they celebrate? At work, a group of us are buying some clothing and toys for a family with four children whose home burned down recently. The children range from an infant girl to a 7- or 8-year-old daughter, and with two boys, 3 and 5.One of my coworkers has a niece who uses the same day care center… that’s how we found out about the fire.

Otherwise, I have done only the bare minimum of Christmas shopping this year: for my daughter’s family and for Paul. Money for the past few years has been pretty tight and Paul and I are only beginning to see a bit of reserve in our future. I probably should buy something for their pets, too. I don’t usually, but they would probably appreciate it this year.

I know that not everyone here celebrates Christmas. Some of us celebrate Channukah, while others prefer the Winter Solstice or maybe the Epiphany. Do we have anyone who likes to celebrate Saturnalia, that ancient Roman holiday? I must admit that I do think of Christmas as more of a secular holiday, given the amount of shopping that I see going on, and the Santa Clauses waiting for children to tell them what they would like to receive, and given how many pagan rites have been sutured to the idea of Christmas. But, I do like the Saturnalian idea of the lights to fend of the darkness of Winter. Yet, if we were going to be completely true to the origins of Saturnalia, the slaves and masters would change places for the day… at least when it came time to serving the banquet. Of course, the slaves still had to prepare their own and their masters’ dinner.

How are you planning to spend the winter holiday?