‘Tis the season, and sometimes we may wonder what ever happened to the real meaning of Christmas. We are bombarded on every side with somebody else’s vision of what Christmas should look like. A consumer driven society only runs well when consumers are spending. So everywhere we look we get the impression that it is mandatory to spend money we don’t have, buying gifts they don’t need, for people we don’t really care for.
And even if you don’t get sucked into that spending spree, you still feel as if there should be a magic to Christmas, a time of perfect families, where siblings get along, and stress disappears. For people who are struggling, who are far from family, or who have lost loved ones, Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. Although we all claim we don’t care what people think, we still end up doing things that we can’t afford, to keep up appearances.
A few years ago, when my father was still alive, but already thinking that his family was strangers, he overheard me saying that for me Christmas was all about the kids. And since I no longer had little kids opening gifts on Christmas morning, well, Christmas was just no fun anymore. My father looked at me very sternly and said “Then I’m very sorry for you.” Despite his dementia, he seemed to be admonishing me that Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not gifts under a Christmas tree!
Yet he had also been the father who sneaked around on Christmas Eve after his kids had gone to bed, disguising himself with a towel over his head. He would wear his green robe (he couldn’t afford to buy a red one just for one night a year!) to place the Christmas gifts and stockings at the end of his sleeping children’s beds. So I know that before dementia robbed him of most of his happy memories, he would have understood perfectly what I was meaning.
But Christmas itself is a stolen holiday. The Christians conveniently borrowed a preexisting holiday in order to make it easier for the pagans to convert to a new religion. And when did it become a holiday of gift giving? It seems to be a stretch to say that Christmas presents represent the gift of the baby Jesus to the world. However it came about, we don’t have to buy into every aspect of the holiday to participate in the glory and joy of Christmas.
We can still give gifts and celebrate without starting the New Year in a hole. Gifts do not have to be expensive to be thoughtful and cherished. A bottle of sorrel made with love may be just as appreciated as an expensive gift from Macy’s. Speaking for myself I would rather you donate a toy to a local charity than buy me a gift. There are those who are truly needy in our midst, and we need to do more to ensure that everyone has a slice of Christmas.
So I hope this year you will enjoy Christmas without going overboard, without being sucked into the urge to spend money you don’t have. Let’s get back to the simple life, when sharing a slice of cake or a glass of eggnog with friends was special, when we didn’t have to make everything bigger and better than the guys next door. Christmas lights are lovely, but if you can’t afford the light bill, save your pennies for more pressing needs.
Gandhi said “Live simply, so others may simply live.” We seem to fill our lives with unnecessary objects and clutter, creating so much waste, when there are many people who are without. It is time we examine our lives more closely, and get back to appreciating relationships instead of things.
This Christmas, please reach out to those who may be in need, or in pain, or in stress. Perhaps you can give the gift of your time, your ear, or a shoulder for someone who finds Christmas the most challenging time of the year. On the other hand, there are those who take great pleasure in gift giving, and I respect that. Sometimes it is just as important to be gracious in receiving the gifts from others.
One Love, family! Have a wonderful Friday, a great weekend, and a thoughtful, reflective Christmas season.