Blue Christmas is a long-held tradition in some parts of what we call, “Western Christianity,” historically held on the winter solstice. Those Christian traditions that hold a Blue Christmas service, on or around December 21, usually leave plenty of room for grief and despair and doubt to be expressed and prayed for. Not only does the winter solstice symbolize darkness but the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle is observed the same day—you know, the apostle most known for doubting Jesus had actually been raised post-crucifixion.
Essentially, the whole concept is that followers of Christ acknowledge that the holy days are not festive and joyful for everyone. Even for those who are cheerfully anticipating and celebrating Christmas or other holy days, there are often pangs of sadness, guilt, grief, despair, or loneliness that diminish how merry we might be: a loved one is missing from around the table for the first time, we’re recently divorced or separated from a meaningful relationship, we lost a job or couldn’t afford gifts, etc. Whatever we are going through, it is good, right, and healthy to give expression to those emotions, especially those that lead us to question or doubt the existence or goodness of God. Our scriptures include the Book of Lamentations, psalms that ask, “How long, O Lord?”, Job who questions and doubts, and St. Thomas as well who needs to see for himself to believe. If we try to hide how and what we are feeling from ourselves, others, or God because we think we should or so that we don’t ruin someone else’s fun, we allow wounds to grow.
This year, in particular, probably each and every one of us has reason to call Christmas and the season of holy days blue. Family and friend gatherings have been limited or erased. We are lonely. We wonder how long we must endure this pandemic. We fear we won’t have another chance to spend these special days with old or sick loved ones. And so many of us are grieving.
So I encourage you not to hide. Whether you believe in God or not, God wouldn’t and doesn’t demand or expect you to think and believe all is well and jolly all the time. Find someone to talk to, find a church or synagogue or mosque that will listen and pray with you, that hosts some type of a Blue Christmas service. The season may be blue, but you aren’t and needn’t be alone.