In the Philippines, Christmas starts with the beginning of the -ber months — September, October, November, December. Up go the lights and decorations. Christmas music blasts in the malls. -Ber month sales are frequent.
For someone who has a hard time getting in the spirit, the last four months of the year are torture. I even convinced myself earlier this year to grow my beard and play Santa for the children in the mall, to see if it would get rid of the humbugs, but I gave that idea up when I realized no amount of Christmas spirit would help me survive hundreds of screaming kids with my anxiety.
I’m not a grinch, but you won’t see me singing Christmas carols anytime soon.
Why am I like this?
Growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we didn’t celebrate any holidays. On Christmas day, when the other kids were riding their new bikes and playing with Star Wars action figures in a pile of discarded wrapping paper, I would be in my room reading a book.
The days of the year others celebrated were uncomfortable for me. I didn’t open gifts on my birthday or find eggs on Easter. I didn’t even buy a gift for my mom on Mother’s day. We were forbidden to do anything associated with a holiday.
Funny enough, the only thing we did celebrate was wedding anniversaries. I don’t know the reason, but it always seemed odd to me.
We didn’t celebrate anything the Witnesses found objectionable. Anything that took away the focus on God was a no-no. We didn’t play in school-organized sports or go to dances. We couldn’t take part in student government. We didn’t prepare for a future in college, because Witnesses didn’t need to further their education. We were better off devoting our life to preaching about God and Jesus until the world as we know it was destroyed at Armageddon.
For my entire young life, I didn’t plan anything because we were living in the “last days,” and there was little time left. There was always some sign that proved we were in the end days of humanity.
It seems the last days are quite long.
How can so many people I love still believe the prophecies of Jehovah’s Witnesses when they have been wrong so many times over the years? I know intelligent people who spent their lives devoted to these lies. My grandmother was almost 100 when she died and was true to the “Faithful and Discreet Slave” her entire life. My mom and dad are in their mid-seventies and have been holding out hope for a “new heavens and a new earth” all that time.
When I finally moved on my own, I distanced myself from those teachings. I struggled my entire young life because I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought because I couldn’t put my faith in Jehovah’s organization that I was a sinner, and I would die with the rest of the “worldly” people when Armageddon came. I couldn’t believe all the lies and half-truths. I couldn’t get in line with how they translated the teachings of the Bible. I thought I was weird because I knew the Bible was fiction.
I was evil because I questioned whether there was a god at all. I was going to die a fiery, screaming death in the “Great Tribulation” because I could not believe what they wanted me to.
It wasn’t until I started reading other viewpoints that I saw the truth. Different viewpoints are forbidden and were “apostate” material to the governing Witnesses. Open minds were sinning minds. Back then it was easy to keep the flock away from that kind of information — there was no internet. It was easy for them to keep people brainwashed. I don’t know how they manage to strike enough fear in the sheep in this day and age so that they don’t read the truth that is so readily available. Back when I was younger there were only a few books by disgraced witnesses (apostates) that dare tell the truth about “The Society.” Now all the information you could want is at our fingertips.
There is no excuse to remain ignorant of the facts.
Over the years, away from the Witnesses, I started to celebrate holidays, but it was always a half-hearted effort. I tried year after year to get in the Christmas spirit. I always made it about the kids, because it held no magic for me.
The influence of the witnesses colored my view of everything. Any joy I could get from my birthday or even Christmas is gone.
To this day, I try to be respectful when I talk about the Witnesses because people I love with all my heart are still in the organization. My mom and dad, who I love dearly, would listen to the elders in the congregation if they told them to disown me for being an apostate. In their minds, they wouldn’t have a choice.
Do you see what a difficult situation I’m in because of a human-made religion? They care nothing for families because they would rip people who love each other apart without a second thought to protect their secrets. Shunning is nothing to them.
My fear lately is that it is already happening.
I’ve been on the other side of the world and had no contact with the Witnesses for years, but in this age of social media, I am sure they are keeping tabs on me.
I could care less about what they knew about me, if not for my wonderful and loving parents.
Having so much Christmas is difficult for me. As much as I try to love this time of year, I can’t get over the past and the things I believed. I want to put it all in the past, but somehow, the Witnesses are still controlling me and my way of thinking.
Christmas will be here soon, and I will celebrate with my family and give gifts. I will drink and be merry. But when it’s over, I will breathe a sigh of relief because I will no longer have to pretend. I will make the best of it for the kids and my extended family, but when the tinsel comes down, I will finally feel better.
It’s tough being me, but someone has to do it.
Merry Christmas, everyone!