Peace of Mind- a Christmas Miracle.

Sticking To My Principles – A Christmas Miracle!

By Leah Dailey

Peace of Mind – A Christmas Miracle

If you’ve been in the Libertarian Party for more than five seconds you’ve encountered this question from your peers, “when did you become a libertarian?” My answer is typically, “Well, I’ve always been skeptical of authority…my poor mother.” Recently it dawned on me it may have started with Christmas.

When I was a little girl Christmas was a time of celebration, delicious food, gathering with friends and family, it was also a time of wonder. I would come to wonder, “who the hell is lying to me?”

I understood fully the celebration of the birth of Christ. I love the nativity story, especially the nuance I came to learn in later years. Mary’s pregnancy was shameful, no one would welcome them as they entered Bethlehem, which is why she gave birth in a stable. The angels visited the shepherds first to deliver the good news of the Messiah’s birth. Shepherds were considered unclean and could not worship at the temple. Jesus came to save all people, starting with those whom society rejected.

What I didn’t understand was Santa, with his elves and flying reindeer. I was equally confused by the dusty plastic tree my mother would erect each year in the corner of our living room. I had learned early on that my mother was not to be trusted to answer my “childish” questions. For example, I was genuinely puzzled about how my body produced tears, but when I asked her, she said it was from too much sugar. Or when I asked her why she and my father had divorced, she said because his mustache tickled when he kissed her. Did she not realize her current boyfriend had a fat Tom Selleck mustache?

We didn’t have a chimney, she told me Santa had a key to the backdoor. I desperately wanted a She-Ra action figure and her horse for Christmas. Santa was my only hope, so I sat on his lap and told him so.

I got a Popple that year. Finally, I realized that Santa had the same distinct handwriting as my mother. The jig was up, and I told my brother my findings. He agreed that Santa’s existence was far-fetched, but his understanding was this: if you don’t believe then you won’t get presents. And he was going to continue to believe. I was dumbfounded. He was willing to believe a lie in order to gain the fleeting happiness that material objects provide? I may have been an overly dramatic child, but I could not see this as anything less than selling your soul to the devil. I took my chances and proclaimed my disbelief. It turns out my brother’s theory was incorrect. The presents still came, though with time there were less toys and more clothes by request as I was becoming a young teenager. I call it a request, but it was more appropriately a demand.

The year’s fashion trend was different colored jeans, and I had put all my Christmas hope into a pair of dark-green Jordache Jeans. I pointed them out several times to my mom at the mall. She even had me try them on so that she knew what size to get me. As tradition my brother and I were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. This was my chance, and I couldn’t wait to show off my cool new jeans at my grandparents’ annual Christmas party that evening. I proposed the win-win scenario: just tell me which present contains the jeans, hand them over, and no one gets hurt. My request was not well received. She refused to tell me which gift it was. Our exchange escalated, and after I had pushed all of her buttons, she loudly revealed that she did not get me the jeans. I lost it, I turned into a red-faced volcano erupting with a shrill screech, frothing with tears and snot. She ruined my Christmas as well as my entire life. (She did get the jeans but gave them to my grandmother to give to me on Christmas Day).

This scene is important for me to describe, as it was later used to explain to my mother why I could no longer participate in the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts. There is nothing wrong with giving a gift. If I see something that reminds me of someone, or something that I know a loved one would like, I will get it for them. It is a nice gesture that communicates that this person is in your thoughts. If this is true, how is making a Christmas list not just a list of demands? And what does my list of demands have to do with the birth of Christ? After all, Christmas isn’t my birthday. I wrestled greatly with these questions as I entered adulthood.

My attitude toward Christmas took a big shift in 2007-2008. I had recently discovered that recycling was bullshit. Literally, I watched the Showtime series Bullshit! starring Penn & Teller, “a documentary series set out to prove that many of the institutions society holds dear are bogus.” My grand take away was that reducing and reusing were far better than recycling. At this same time I read a book called Culture Jam, written by the founder of Adbuster magazine, and I delved deep into anti-consumerism. I then found a book called Scroogenomics which helped to cement my personal principles to reject current western Christmas traditions (the book emphasizes the excess waste and overspending around the holidays). Needless to say, no one was happy to hear my anti-Christmas rhetoric that year. I was labeled Scrooge and Grinch. I tried to compromise, and wrapped the few gifts I gave with newspaper instead of wrapping paper. But it wasn’t enough. I was too convicted of my principles.

The next year I went full bore. No one seems to like it when I point out that Jesus was more likely born between April and September, or that Constantine picked Dec 25 to piggyback off of Saturnalia celebrations, or the yuletide worship of the evergreen tree- and what about St. Nicholas? A wonderful man, he gave to the poor, and did not request a list of demands from entitled children. My kids were 6 and 8 that year. No more Christmas tree, no more stockings, no more gifts. I never promoted Santa anyway, forgive me, I don’t like lying right to my children’s faces. Before you label me as Grinch, know this, I did not forbid others from exchanging gifts, I only asked that they leave me out of it. I explained, in length, to my kids why I could not continue with the charade. No need to pity my children, I go big on their birthdays, that day is all about celebrating them.

As libertarians I think we can all agree it can be hard to take a stand for your principles without sounding arrogant. If I’m doing what I think is right, does that mean I think everyone else is wrong? Of course, but I fully believe everyone is free to practice whatever holiday traditions they value, even if I think they are wrong.

I am still concerned with holiday waste, and I’d like everyone to get serious about it. 4.3 million pounds of wrapping paper are purchased every year. For what? To momentarily cover a box and then to throw it in the trash. 30% of U.S. garbage is produced in December. We live in a hyper-consumption, ultra-convenience, disposable society. (I can be an anti-consumer capitalist by the way). It pangs me to my core thinking about the planned obsolescence that goes into manufacturing the products we buy. Just throw out the old and buy the new. Garbage is a real problem. And then I’m told that I’m doing my part by using a paper straw. I call bullshit.

This article appears in the February 2024 Michigan Libertarian.

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