‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays with Lindsay Eagar

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Lindsay Eagar

Lindsay Eagar is a reader, writer, and coffee snob. When she isn’t working longhand on one of her stories, she is teaching piano lessons, visiting the aquarium five minutes from her house, going for long runs, or baking delicious, immoral desserts. Hour Of The Bees is her debut, a magical realism MG out from Candlewick Press in March 2016. She lives in the mountains of Utah Valley with her daughter and an army of books.

Author Links: TwitterTumblrGoodreads

Who is Christmas for, anyway?

This Franken-holiday, stitched together with parts of so many different cultures…Is it Christ’s birthday? Is it a celebration of winter solstice? Yule? The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun? A conspiracy by Starbucks and Target, to lure us in with their cozy deer-printed wrapping paper and gingerbread lattes? All of the above?

It seems like every group can claim it; there’s more flags in Christmas than a mini golf course. But what if you have no stake in the game? What if you aren’t Christian, Pagan, Roman, or a Starbucks fan? What if you are in that vague non-religious demographic? What if you did that to yourself? This is, perhaps, a bit of selfish, self-inflicted atheist long-suffering. But this was my reality when I faced my first religious holiday with the religion part missing — a faith appendectomy. Removed. Scarred.

A little background: I was raised Mormon in Mormon Country, USA, i.e., Utah County, Utah. (As of this post, Utah County is around 80% Mormon.) When I was 22, I formally left the church. To leave the Mormon fold can be terrifying, eliciting sideways glances and whispers of “sins too big to forgive,” or even full-on family and community ostracizing. I had none of that. My family was and is supportive.

But I remember my first Christmas as a newly-out agnostic/atheist/non-religious/big fat Mormon quitter. It felt sad. Scary. Pointless. Every house was lined with Christmas lights; every storefront exploded red and green; every billboard plastered in that idyllic scene we all know so well — Mary holding her new swaddled babe, serene despite having just given birth in a barn, Joseph the solemn sentinel behind them. I knew people who would glance at any version of the nativity and tear up; I would glance at the nativity and feel nothing. And then I would feel guilty.

And then I would wonder — did I ever really feel it? Was there ever a time when I heard the story of Christ’s birth and felt anything?

No, I didn’t. Not really. When I was younger, I’d get handouts from my church leaders around Christmastime with phrases like, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!” I would sing along to the Christmas hymns without thinking about the words. I would throw away those handouts and just eat the candy. When my mom announced one year she wanted to strip down Christmas presents to just three simple gifts per person, like the wise men gave to Jesus, I gritted my teeth and smiled like a good Mormon girl, and tried to remember if the wise men had thoughtfully brought the baby Jesus a Barbie Jeep.

Does this mean I was always an evil little skeptic? A heathen in the form of a freckle-faced sixth grader with teeth like a beaver? I don’t think so. I think I just didn’t understand. Not yet.

But there was one Christmas that changed me. The first Christmas I remember feeling something.

I was 22, aimless in life, a desperate person who wanted to be writer so badly but didn’t ever really. Adolescence was long over, but I was struggling to adjust as a Young Woman — I had more false starts than a speed skating match.

Then I got pregnant. The father wanted nothing to do with me or the baby. I would be alone.

Pregnant and unmarried in Utah County. I heard the word “wedlock” a lot. I had a lot of people praying for me, and a lot of people passing me pamphlets on adoption, and I was terrified. But then she went from my womb to my arms, and the fear melted away, and the shame and whispers were drowned out by the deafening quiet of pure love.

She was about a month old, and it was almost Christmas, and the fussy piglet wouldn’t sleep. I wandered into my mom’s living room around midnight and collapsed on the couch, right next to the Christmas tree. I was exhausted. I was still scared. I was still alone. I re-swaddled my little pink burrito and held her on my lap, and then she found the lights.

My mother’s Christmas trees famously look like they could be in Pottery Barn catalogs. Her tree that year was all white lights, red feathered birds, glittering snowflakes, and my daughter stopped fussing, and stared at the lights, and I stared at her. I held her close, and smelled her skin — that new baby pink smell — and watched her mouth loll open, and for the first time in my life, I thought…I get it.

A mother, belly swollen, riding into a strange town on a donkey. A mother, gasping and screaming through the pains of childbirth, with the stink of manure and animal feed, dirt beneath her, and the baby is alive, and cries. She wraps him and shushes him, and holds him to her breast, and the pain collapses for a moment, giving way to the most fulfilling, consuming, changing love she’s ever felt. A love that saves.

That little girl of mine, all pink and glitter, wrapped up tight in her blanket…She saved me. A baby saved me. I understand now.

My savior is not in the form of a god, or an eternal plan for humanity, or any kind of salvation except this, here and now, when she walks into the room. She’s six, and every Christmas I remember that first Christmas with her, when she was born and everything was different. New stars in the heavens, absolutely.

Isn’t that what we all do? Religious or not — don’t we all listen to the story, and try to find the one kernel that works for you? The part that makes you sit up taller, fight harder, live better? If Christmas is really just about a story…How did I miss that, all those years? I love stories. I was too busy trying to dissect it and apply it to my soul three times daily, or whatever the minimal requirement was that would make me a decent enough Mormon. I forgot it was a story. And stories have power. It took becoming a mother for me to understand Mary, and Jesus, and the whole story. How beautiful a story it is, too — I’ve heard it so much, I sometimes let it wash over me — a mother with nothing, and a baby who brought everything.

I lost my faith. Even that phrase is so cringeworthy — as if faith is a standard human condition, and you can lose it the way you lose an earring, a set of keys, your favorite pen, a book on a subway. But I lost it, and gained a new understanding of Christmas. Christmas is love. Love of people, love of sky and snow and trees, love of work and books and music, love of life.

Christmas is seeing the same production of The Nutcracker with my family, the same costumes, the same rickety set, all of it a grand tradition we’ve done since I was three.

Christmas is singing all the Christmas songs out loud, all December, even the hymns. Gloria! Sweetly singing praise! Joy to the world!

Christmas is my annual reading of Little Women. It’s sugar cookies and cheese balls; it’s A Muppet Christmas Carol and a garland of paper snowflakes; it’s the blending of old traditions, drawn from stories older than any of us are, and the new traditions I am starting with my daughter and my fiancé.

Christmas is new pajamas.

Christmas is love.

And who is love for? Everyone.

Who is Christmas for? Whoever wants it.

Title Hour Of The Bees
Author Lindsay Eagar
Pages 368 Pages
Target Audience & Genre Middle Grade, Contemporary, Magical Realism
To Be Published March 8th, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them…

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

2 responses to “‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays with Lindsay Eagar”

  1. This is such a beautiful post. I have tears springing in my eyes. I love love love everything about this.
    Jamie @ Books and Ladders recently posted…REVIEW: ILLUMINAE (THE ILLUMINAE FILES #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffMy Profile

  2. Alexa S. says:

    Oh wow, this post is lovely, Lindsay! I do agree – love is for everyone, and this season is the time I feel it most of all <3
    Alexa S. recently posted…I Bet You Think This Song Is About You (It Is) • Audrey, Wait!My Profile

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