By Sara Kyoungah White –
The holidays are overwhelming. As a Christian and an introvert, I take refuge in church.
The day I look forward to most every holiday season is January 2. After the bustle and sensory overload of the holidays, the second day of the new year comes like a quiet snowfall, an invitation to rest in blessed solitude.
Appropriately, it’s also National Introvert Day. Up to half of the US population is introverted like me, and though the official designation may not be widely known, my sense of relief is no doubt widely shared. Many Americans report finding the holiday season stressful—but also lonely. Hectic, yet sad.
The pressure to socialize, consume, and celebrate can feel like too much. But if you scale down the celebrations and opt for a more restrained vision of the ideal holiday, you may be perceived as a killjoy. The holiday introvert in popular culture is the Grinch, friendly only with his pet dog. In church culture, introverted behavior can be seen as selfish or, perhaps, less useful for the gospel.
A feast day in the early church, then, was most of all a day for remembering one’s identity as a believer—an identity that ran directly counter to the Roman Empire. For example, the later rise of Christmas as a Christian holiday, some scholars say, came as a counterpoint to Saturnalia, a raucous Roman winter festival celebrated in December. The feast of Christ’s nativity, in contrast, was most notably a solemn worship service to adore the Savior.
Contemporary accounts of these early holidays are imbued with joy and passion. A nun named Egeria who visited an Eastern church in 381 described how, all throughout Lent, the catechumenates would spend three hours a day listening to the bishop expound on the Scriptures. “The faithful utter exclamations,” she wrote, “but when they come and hear him explaining the catechesis, their exclamations are far louder, God is my witness.”