Christmas, Then vs. Now


This morning, spending a snuggly Christmas on the couch with my husband, his sister Carol who’s visiting us this year, and my fur family, while watching Love Actually after completing my Christmas baking, I had a thought: I may actually be enjoying Christmas this year.

It’s never been particularly enjoyable. The excuse I always use is that I’m in retail and it’s tough over the holidays. But the truth is, every single thing I’ve done for the past 12 Christmases has been tinged with the pain of all those non-Christmases I spent for the better part of 20 years.

In the sea org, there’s really no such thing as time off for Christmas. And spending Christmas with family? Unheard of. When I tell you we worked up to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long, that includes every holiday.

Christmas was just something that got in the way of our “higher purpose” in the Sea Org. Spending time doing “Christmasy” things was considered CI, or “counter-intention”, which was an ethics situation and could get you in trouble.

The only good memory I have of Christmas in the Sea Org was eating Christmas dinner, which was specially prepared for that day. It was a bit more extravagant than usual, which isn’t saying much. As I recall, we even got to spend a bit of extra time at dinner on Christmas, before we got back to work.

Once we had a Christmas party at the Int Base, but I don’t remember much of it. I do remember we had a Christmas show where different staff performed. We had a lot of talent on that base, so it was nice. The “highlight” was the performance by the cadets.

A bit of background on the cadet org: It was set up for children of sea org members, aged anywhere from six months to 16 years old. These children were separated from their parents, because it was considered that they would “get in the way” of the important sea org business their parents were doing.

The cadets were indoctrinated in the ways of the sea org, and worked just as hard as any other sea org member. They did get a bit of schooling, but most of it was on hubbard’s teachings. And of course they were put to work—hard work.

To say that the sea org policy of separating kids from their parents was bad, is a severe understatement. The cruelty was extreme, and the kids were as harshly punished as the adults. It was rare that parents got to spend any time at all with their kids; That’s why the one Christmas party that sticks in my mind is the one where the cadets came and spent time with their families.

I remember the feeling of happiness in that room, and the laughter. The kids running around and playing was so completely foreign to us at the time that it was almost surreal. At the end of the regular Christmas performances, we had a special surprise: All the kids got up and sang a song they’d prepared just for us. The tune? “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas.”

What more appropriate song could there be for a bunch of kids to sing at a sea org party? Here are a few choice lines:

I won’t be seeing Santa Claus; somebody snitched on me.
He won’t come visit me because somebody snitched on me.
Next year I’ll be going straight, next year I’ll be good, just wait.
I’d start now but it’s too late; somebody snitched on me.

Oh, I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas.
Mommy and Daddy are mad.
I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas,
‘Cause I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad.

Wow. Just wow. Even the Christmas song they chose to sing reinforced the whole concept of telling on someone who does something against the mores of the group, and how if you do something wrong you’ll be punished.

But hey, we had all drunk the kool-aid so couldn’t see the irony. We laughed, clapped, and sang along.

Oh, what a memory. But as weird as it is, it’s the only “good” memory I have of Christmas in the sea org. The rest of them are memories of working day and night, many nights in a row, preparing speeches and videos for the upcoming New Year’s event. So Christmas mostly meant sleepless nights and constant threats if we didn’t get it done in time.

So yes, I think I’ve been purposely NOT liking Christmas because I’ve been living in the past. Time to move on.

This year, I haven’t been avoiding the Christmas spirit as much as I used to. I even went to Disney a couple of times during Christmas and had FUN.

Yesterday, I had a wonderful family dinner filled with lots of food and even more love. Today, I’m heading over to spend Christmas day with some of our dearest friends (i.e., chosen family) for what I know will be a wonderful Christmas feast.

I’m so lucky. And so grateful. No more sad Christmases for this gal!

Merry Christmas. May you spend it with those you love, doing what you love.


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