What is the TRUE meaning of Christmas?
The question is, of course, irrelevant. Christmas started as a pagan ritual that became Christianized. Unlike Easter, there is nothing specifically holy or appropriate about the season or the date. No mythos that connects the birth of the god-man to the beginning of winter, no biblical tradition, no holy connection. Which doesn’t keep it from being what one wants it to be, but it is not explicitly a holy season for Christians. Therefore, there is no true reason to argue that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Especially since there are other, specifically non-Jesus-y, reasons for the season*.
Earlier this week, a friend and I were discussing my daughter and what she looks forward to – or may look forward to – for the upcoming season. I grumbled something about her expecting Santa (aaargh!) and snow (also, aaarrrgh for us Chicagoans). But then my friends talks brightly and fondly about watching the Christmas classics on TV. And this, oddly enough, flashes my mind with images and emotions related to watching Star Wars (NOT the infamous Holiday Special one) on our black and white telly in the early 80’s, pre-VCR. Not to mention Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, or The Grinch, the Christmas Carol with the really freaky Ghost of Christmas to Come in the Joe Black trench coat. Of course, we shan’t forget little Ralphie and his Christmas Story.
I cherish and idolize my memories of watching these fantastic stories and their fantastic sets and worlds (early Lucas re-interpreting cheesy sci-fi and Chuck Jones interpreting Charles Schultz and Dr. Seuss, especially. But also Vince Guaraldi, and hilarious word-play like “‘Frajily.’ It must be Italian.”), but especially in the settings where I watched them: with my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my brothers, mom and dad, and grandma. Christmas was for family reunions.
That’s what Christmas has meant to me. For my friend, the best part of the season was the fact that her mother relinquished control of her telenovela addiction to allow my friend and her sisters to watch Christmas specials with their only television.
The point being, there is no such thing as the REAL meaning of Christmas. Christmas and the rest of the holidays are as subjective, as meaningless or meaningful as you want them to be.
For me, for now, however, I choose to let the season be more about focusing on what it means that God would submit himself to humanity in the frailest of ways. Not so much Christmas as a supposed holy day, but the notion and contemplation of the birth of Jesus. That, in part, is what this season means. And I’d like to let that influence the rest of me.
*More on that later. But here’s a hint: Credit/Cash/Money/Buy/Spend