The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
November 30, 2002
Now It's Christmastime
Yesterday, as millions of toilets flushed away
the remnants of Thursday's turkey feast in that last, great, unheralded
Thanksgiving tradition, our attention properly
turned to Christmas.
Christmas can be a real pain, especially if
you have kids and a big family, or have to travel. A crushing plethora of
tasks must be done by December 25, in addition to the usual everyday
There are Christmas cards to select, buy,
sign, address, stamp, and mail. Decorations to unpack, sort, test, and
display. Outdoor lights to test, unwind, and hang up. Malls to endure to
buy gifts for everyone in the family. Cookies, cakes, and pies to bake and
decorate. Stockings to stuff. Trees to trim. Garland to garnish. Packages
to priority mail.
If you have kids, there are school
Christmas parties (now called holiday or winter celebrations, of course),
school gift exchanges, school plays, Christmas arts and crafts, and clever
hiding places to stow the gifts. If you and your family are involved with
church, there are church activities like concerts, cantatas, and more
crafts and gift exchanges, not to mention volunteer work, like decorating
Naturally, there are consequences. During
the season to be jolly, tempers grow short and explode, stress levels
rise, blood pressure skyrockets, and most tragically of all, suicides
increase for those who see no magical cheer at Christmas.
So, the question must be asked - why is
this everyone's favorite time of year?
For Christians, that answer is obvious.
Christmas is the birth of the Savior. Jews celebrate Hanukah. But even
people of other faiths and no faith often partake in the secular fruits of
Christmas - the tree, the gifts, and so on. It is the rare creature, a
real-life Scrooge, who does not love Christmas. Why?
This may seem like an obvious question.
This is the season for true love and fellowship and peace on earth and all
that. But is it really? How much peace is there at the mall parking lot?
How much love for your fellow man is there in the checkout lanes? How many
people, even those who adore Christmas, are relieved when it's finally
over? Just about everyone, I'd guess. So why do we put ourselves through
this annual ordeal? A few reasons, I think.
First, the Christmas atmosphere is unique
and different from the rest of the year, for an extended length of time.
For the whole month of December, the cultural landscape is transformed by
bright happy lights and festive decorations. No other national holiday or
event can match this display. What better way to beat the Christmas crunch
than to spend a night driving around town and enjoying Christmas lights?
Second, let's face it, we all like to get
stuff. Kids especially love Christmas because of the delicious and
unbearable anticipation of Christmas morning and ripping open the gifts.
Even adults, though few admit it, still enjoy opening their presents. I
know I do.
But getting stuff and Christmas decorations
aren't sufficient reasons, in my opinion. Christmas is more than that. We
all love Christmas because we give stuff. We endure the malls and the
agony and the torture because we want to spend our time and money on other
people, from our closest loved ones to strangers in a soup kitchen. We
adopt families and select a gift from the Angel tree because, even in this
age of cynicism and self-centeredness, we still realize that helping those
in need is the right thing to do.
Many have lamented the commercialization of
Christmas. Other than starting much too soon, I have little problem with
it, because it expresses our desire to give to others. By offering huge
sales and deep discounts, businesses participate and spread the Christmas
spirit of giving by making it easier to do so.
We love Christmas because, deep down, we
love and respect each other, even if we sometimes forget in the mall