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Archive for December 24th, 2011

Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.  –  Theodore Seuss Geisel

I find it terribly sad that many if not most modern people don’t “get” Christmas at all, and the major reason is that so many of them try to turn it into something it isn’t, or else they fall for others’ attempts to do so and mistakenly believe that Christmas “is” what all the Grinches say it is.  Big business has tried to claim it as the excuse for an orgy of conspicuous consumption, conservative Christians have overreacted to commercialization by trying to claim it as “their” religious holiday, and the politically correct have overreacted to the Christians by creating a neutered “winter holiday” shorn of any symbolism or meaning whatsoever, thus encouraging further commercialization and Christian posturing.  And this annual power-struggle between Christ, Mammon and Sensitivityperson has become so annoying that many people want nothing more to do with the holiday, which they perceive as a colossal fraud.

But Christmas has existed in one form or another since at least 3000 years before the birth of Jesus, and in all likelihood back to the last glacial retreat about 10,000 years ago.  It has had many names, and though each succeeding generation adds some traditions and old ones slowly fall by the wayside, some elements have remained unchanged practically since the beginning.  In a way, Christmas is a lot like life itself (as befitting a festival celebrating the renewal of life and hope); everyone thinks of it differently and experiences it differently, and nobody is harmed by other people celebrating it differently or not celebrating it at all.  It’s big enough for all the varied traditions which it encompasses, and then some, and any attempt to reduce it to one specific “reason for the season” which excludes all others is selfish, childish and ultimately a theft of the spirit of the holiday, which is about giving and sharing.  If you want to celebrate the birth of your deity at Christmas, feel free; if you want to employ it to make a ton of cash, go right ahead; and if you want to use it as an excuse for a skiing holiday that’s fine as well.  But don’t pretend that your way of observing the season is the only “right” one, because it isn’t.

One year ago today I wrote about the magic of Christmas as I experienced it growing up, and I pointed out that it can still be that way:

The hype can be avoided by turning off the TV set (or at least avoiding commercials by fast-forwarding prerecorded shows), tossing sales flyers and setting one’s spam filters to reject any rubbish with “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” in the subject line.  The crush and stress can be avoided by shopping early and/or online, and the joys of a simpler time can be recaptured by watching favorite old Christmas shows and movies on DVD while munching on homemade (NOT store bought) gingerbread men or Christmas cookies and drinking cocoa or egg nog…think back to your own childhood, and bring those fun and magical activities back.  Even if everyone around you is eating tasteless, frozen TV dinners, there’s nothing to stop you from cooking a real meal, and so it is with Christmas; just because everyone else has swallowed the prefab commercial “holiday” doesn’t mean you have to as well.

In other words, commercialization and culture wars can only steal your Christmas if you let them.  It was here long before the Grinches which have tried to claim it as exclusively theirs, and it will continue to exist long after they’re just words in a history book.  Because as Dr. Seuss reminds us, “Christmas Day will always be, just so long as we have we.”

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