To say I’m not a fan of Christmas would be a major understatement. While I do enjoy living up to my well-deserved “Grinch” reputation, I am able to control my distaste while around my grandchildren and my wife and daughter, both of whom think Christmas is truly “the most wonderful time of the year”. I’ve tried to think back to discover where this active dislike of the season comes from and in doing so, I’ve realized that while I’m not opposed to Christmas per se, I have become jaded with what it has come to represent in some people’s lives.
The Christmas spirit is something that a lot of people talk about and few people seem to know what it is. Along with the predictable movies and the repetitive and treacly music blaring from store speakers since October, we have the inevitable stories of parents pushing and shoving and acting in otherwise socially acceptable ways, all so they can get this years “must have” toy or electronic device for their children. People accumulate horrific debt on unpayable credit cards in order to meet self-imposed demands. It’s really no wonder that calls to Mental Health hotlines spike at this time of year. It leads me to wonder if we would all be better off without Christmas at all.
Most scholars believe that Christmas began as a pagan holiday and was later usurped by Roman Christians. Some believe that the festival was placed on December 25th to celebrate the Roman Winter solstice. The return of longer days and less darkness is something worth celebrating, even by those of us who do not have any particular religious beliefs. The Christmas shopping orgy as we now know it really only began in the mid 1960s and has all but obliterated the original intention of Christmas.
Thinking back, some of my best memories of Christmas as an adult came when I was raising my children back in the time when men “couldn’t do that”. We had very little in the way of surplus money to meet the seasonal demands placed upon me. By necessity and not by choice, the Christmas tree was usually a real tree, harvested from the Beam Station Road. Decorations were sparse and one year in particular, was almost all homemade. Hours were spent gluing paper chains together in alternating red and green links. Egg cartons and pipe cleaners became bells with glued on sparkles and stickers. Old painted lights reflected off of hand me down ornaments donated by generous friends and family.
As a child, the presents and gifts I remember most were a table hockey game and a toboggan, both gifts that I had to share with my brother and sister. I’m sure that my parents went through the same angst in choosing presents (well, I’m sure my Mother did) that parents of today go through, although as children, we were blissfully ignorant of any stress that may have been present.
Looking back on these three experiences leads me to believe that if you were inclined to go and look for the Christmas Spirit, you should look for things and events that involve sharing of time rather than the division of consumer products. The real Christmas spirit existed in the dents and cracks in that old toboggan and it shone in the glitter that fell off of the homemade egg carton bells.
In the unforgettable words of Dr. Seuss, “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”
Now, can we do something about that horrible music?