Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of YMF-Mas! Whether you love the holidays or dread them every year, we’re here to offer you support and cheer. So pull on that ugly sweater, grab some eggnog, and enjoy!
As I write this blog post for you, my dear YMF sisters, I am drinking Welch’s-Sparkling-Mango-Bellini-mocktail straight from the bottle and listening to MoTab sing Christmas carols. It’s a very Mormon Christmas in Kathryn-land this year but I’m learning to embrace it.
Christmas can be a weird time for Mormons experiencing a faith transition. It can be marvelous and fulfilling. It can be sad and confusing, but it’s almost always going to be a little bit weird.
Christmas is a time of traditions, family, service, and giving. It’s also a time to feel disappointment at your ward Christmas dinner’s lack of funeral potatoes and to laugh when the Primary kids innocently jumble beloved songs. Just growing up is enough to make the holidays different, but celebrating Christmas during a faith transition, well it can just leave us feeling isolated.
I attended a Christmas dinner in my home ward this weekend. I’ve been back a few times, but it always feels like an ordeal. I walk in and hug people I’ve known for since I was a child. I shake hands of former primary teachers and bishops, I sit in the cultural hall I’ve helped decorate countless times for weddings, dinners, baby showers, and ward parties, and I eat a familiar meal of lukewarm ham and mashed potatoes. There are a few new families here and there, some missionaries I haven’t met yet, but for the most part, going to this ward is a little like going home. There are so many things that haven’t changed since I was the eager, involved, gospel-loving young woman that ward raised me to be. Except that I am no longer that person and being among those dear people feels a little bit deceptive. They are my community no less, and a second glance around the room allows me to see others with whom I identify, other Mormon misfits. Single mothers, part member families, individuals raised in the gospel who have decided not to raise their children in the gospel right beside everyone else. We’re all sitting together, breaking bread, telling stories, showing pictures and building the communities God intended for us. People from all levels of faith are seated together in a beautiful, simple manifestation of the Christmas spirit. Faith can still be the thing that connects us, even when it is no longer the thing that defines us.
The holiday season, with its parties, dinners, firesides, broadcasts, special Christmas programs, and visits to family and friends forces us back into spaces that we may have outgrown. We show up, shake hands, and say all the right things. It’s a lot reminiscing on my youth, and trying to figure out if there’s a scientific explanation for why I still remember all the words to that primary song where Samuel the Lamanite predicts the birth of Christ. It’s equal parts remembering how right Mormonism feels and trying to figure out if I can stay in this church through another year. Faith-transitions do funny things to a soul. It is easy to think that our communities will turn us away, and they may, but then again, what if the Mormons we are at Christmas are the Mormons we should be year-round? What if growing closer to Christ allows us to approach the faults of our communities more gently? What if, during this season, there is a space for even the most skeptical and unorthodox among us?
Kathryn lives in West Virginia. Her hobbies include napping, wishing she played the banjo, and causing a ruckus. She believes that the pepperoni roll is the answer to world peace.