12.14.18 - “It’s big! It’s bright! ...Christmas!”
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk about Christmas.
Well, it is the day to do it, don’t you know?
Many people have many opinions on Christmas. Some see it as a sacred holiday, where faith and the celebration of the christian messiah is the most important focus. Others see Christmas as another family time, where love and the acknowledgement of those you care for is the most important focus. Some even see Christmas as a really great time of indulgence and relaxation, where presents, and food, and drink are the most important focus.
So, which is the correct view?
Well, let’s look at where Christmas came from to see if we can figure it out. Christmas, despite a popular opinion, does not mark the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Some theologians think Jesus was born in the spring, and others think he was born in the summer, due to astronomical and textual evidence, but most agree that Jesus was definitely not born in the winter. The reason for December 25th being associated with Christmas and the birth of Jesus is due to an old pagan, Roman tradition called Saturnalia. This was a celebration of the father of the gods, and featured gift giving and decorations with greenery and lights, and, it just so happened to be celebrated around the end of the winter sowing season, which was right around December. So, when the Roman-Christian church decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they blended together this already existing tradition with a new rebranding of celebrating their messiah.
“It’s big! It’s bright! You knew it as Saturnalia, but it’s back with a brand new bag: Christmas!”
As culture progressed, and the Western world entered the industrial revolution (right around the nineteenth century), Christmas, as one of the largest Christian celebrations, became widely commercialized like the rest of life. As industry was mass producing goods, entrepreneurs began to tie in commercialism with the holiday. This was especially true in America, where we didn’t have set Christmas traditions, due to our lack of a singular culture. Christmas presents of all shapes and sizes were no longer just a sweet treat or a handcrafted toy, but turned into mass-produced and advertised knick-knacks and kitsch. Christmas dinner was simply not complete without a “traditional” honey glazed ham, and/or turkey, and/or pistachio pudding, and/or decorated Christmas cookies, and/or… and/or… and/or…all of which could be purchased, pre-made, at your local, industrial-sized grocery store. Decorations for both the inside and outside of your home were available for purchase everywhere. Santa turned from incentive for yearly morality, into a magical extension of the yearly promise of greed-fulfillment.
This is how we got to the Christmas we see today. Some people still celebrate this holiday for its (admittedly pagan-infused) religious roots, while others celebrate the more industrial, commercialistic-based entity that Christmas has become. Still, some pick other reasons to celebrate, or not celebrate Christmas (yes, that’s right, many people don’t celebrate Christmas). And, none of these people are correct or incorrect in their choice of celebration. Everyone can choose for themselves why and how they celebrate Christmas.
So, how should you celebrate Christmas?
I want to tell you another history: how your family celebrated Christmas. When your mama, and auntie, and guncle were younger, g-ma and g-pa celebrated Christmas with several traditions. We all stayed home and played games as a family. We would construct puzzles, and play Sorry (my personal favorite) and Monopoly (though, we usually cut that one short…you know how our family deals with competitiveness), all the while drinking egg nog, eating summer sausage, chips and dip, and cheese. We hung our personal stockings out for St. Nick at the beginning of December, and then, for the twelve days of Christmas (from December 25th through to January 5th) we would exchange gifts and cards that we had made for each other. On New Year’s Eve we sat down as a family and had a steak and shrimp dinner, with sparkling juice…or wine for g-ma.
Throughout the years our family has seen some very rough times, and we don’t celebrate like this anymore. With your auntie and guncle living in different states, and your mama and papa creating their own traditions, our family’s traditions are on tumultuous ground. We can’t all gather together like before to play games. Not all of us can afford steak and shrimp, summer sausage and chips and dip, financially or physically (hello, Christmas body!). And, a lot of our family doesn’t have the time or skill to make presents…not that some of us ever really had the skill (just ask your mama about some of the doozies I gifted her).
So, what traditions do we celebrate? What is the correct view of Christmas?
Well, like I said before, there is no correct view. There are no proper traditions and there is no “right” belief. Christmas, like all other holidays, is a personal celebration. It’s a moment to rest from the hectic nature of life, release ourselves from the whirlwind of stress and responsibility, distraction and imbalance, and refocus on what is most important to us. Is it your faith that you need to reconnect with? Is it a reminder to enjoy the pleasures of life that you are craving? Are your family and friends people who need your attention and love? Well, that’s why we have Christmas, and all other holidays: to focus on what we need to remember.
So, sweet babe, why and how will you celebrate?