Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)
It’s that time of year again, when the lights go out, the tree is put up, and people are hurrying to and fro trying to find that perfect present. Some enjoy the gift-giving, most enjoy the receiving, but many are finally noticing that a holiday that was originally presented by Christians to be selfless and loving has now become over commercialized and rather selfish, at least, in America. Where has the love gone, the magic that everyone associated with Christmas? Is it because we insist that the world should be devoid of the love that Jesus Christ brings in the manger, that it should be devoid of the wonder and magic that Santa Claus brings down every chimney? Is it because we are seeing less and less of that child-like love, that child-like wonder in a world that says only adults can thrive? Is it because of fewer children in the world? One thing does seem certain, we are losing something and we had better fight hard to reclaim it before it is gone forever, and to do so there are some key components to save the holiday, again for America (other countries have their own traditions, so for the entirety of this article, think American traditions), the love of Christ, the magic of Santa Claus, and the wonder of nature.
When people say there’s a war on Christmas, it’s not so much that Christmas itself is going to disappear overnight, but more that there’s a subtle twist and turn to take down symbols that has always been associated with the holiday, namely Christian symbols. It’s a slow going war, trying to pass under the radar and calling those who notice fools, trying to appropriate a religious holiday into something it wasn’t meant to be. What it is meant to be is the celebration of the birthday or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, born of a Virgin and laid wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. And like that first Christmas Day, it seems that today, only the poor shepherds and the wise Magi heeded the trumpets of Heaven announcing His birth and knelt before Him. Those filled with an ardent burning desire to know the Lord and those filled with a burning desire to serve Him seek Him out and come to know Him. In a world full of people seeking love and peace, one would think all would flock to Him. But the main reason for this is because His path to peace and ways of showing love are not what people are looking for. Then what are we looking for? Should we stay content with where we are, or should we actually go through the inconvenience of bettering ourselves? In the meantime, one should not have to celebrate Christmas if one does not want to, especially if one is not Christian. But for those who complain about it, remember how America began, as a group of Christians escaping persecution for their beliefs because the English were prejudiced against pretty much everyone else (they’re still trying to destroy the Gaelic spirit). But then, we tend to seek out the hate in the world and instead of battling it with love, we fight it with more hate. That’s why Christmas is supposed to be all about Love coming to Earth to battle our hate for us for we seem rather incapable of loving all, instead only loving those who we select as the worthy few. Christmas reminds of that love we should share with our fellow man, regardless of perceived imperfections or whatever scary differences there may be. If God on high can come down to Earth and begin life as any human would, then we have the capability of showing others the love He shows for us. We, as imperfect and sinful as we are, are still beautiful in His sight for He sees our potential. It’s our turn to see the potential in everyone else, whether young or old, rich or poor, or any other stupid reason we can think of for hating each other.
And this is where Santa Claus comes in handy. He helps to spread that message, the message of being good towards others and, like Jesus, promises something good if we do. However, unlike Jesus, Santa can only promise temporary happiness, since he is nothing more than a legend inspired by a great Saint of the Church, who might have ended up on Santa’s naughty list if you really take a look at his life. I don’t think Santa approves of violence, so punching Arius would in fact get Nicholas on that list, but, as some saints have shown, sometimes when someone’s heart was so hard, a punch was a hopeful means of breaking that stone. But Saint Nicholas, like his fictional descendant, strove to give to others and sought to spread love and peace. Why then is Santa Claus so important, so necessary? The magic of Santa Claus is more of the excitement and the wonder that comes from hearing the impossible. Who isn’t intrigued and impressed by the notion that reindeer can fly, or that one in particular has a nose that lights up like an airplane light? Rather convenient, right? But stories are always as important to a holiday’s traditions as they are to each culture. It’s what makes each one so unique. And it’s why Santa actually doesn’t bring presents to every child in the world. How can he when Befana, the Magi, Father Christmas, and several other characters are doing the same? As they should, since each culture’s stories are different, and for good reason. Can you imagine how boring the world would be if there was only one story, only one culture? You can’t make a rainbow with one color, so too you can’t make one world with one culture or just one story. As long as we know it is just a story, the magic can still brighten our trees and our minds without fear of being dimmed when told the truth. Far too many seem to think it’s all over when they’re told that Santa isn’t real. But what if we told them that he is real, just not in the way they originally thought? For some, the answer is Saint Nicholas, for others, the spirit of the season and the joy of giving. But whatever way you decide to keep Santa Claus in your life, just know that the story itself is what’s most important.
Now, the wonder of nature, a slightly different thing than what I’ve covered above. Yes, there are many people who get what is called seasonal depression, as the dark clouds and bitter cold make them sadder. And it’s no new thing either, as it seems that many cultures around the world have a holiday in the winter season for this reason, to cheer people up. But some people enjoy the dark clouds: the wild winds thrill them, and the glistening snow perks them up in a way that the warm rays of the sun couldn’t. But besides that, not only is there beauty in the soft stillness of snow, the winter is a stark reminder of the cycle of life. All who live must die, and winter reminds us that we really only have a short time upon this Earth and we must use that time wisely. Some blossom in their purpose early, others later, but it is still something we must all strive for, to keep our eyes on that goal of finding our purpose. But there is one other thing, the tree most often seen during Christmas time, another reminder of what we must do, the ever-shedding pine. Like the pine, we must be constantly shedding ourselves of the little moments of meanness, of the little temper tantrums when things don’t go our way, of the harm we commit when our selfish natures take over. It is hard, I know, I battle it every day, but it can be done, we just have to work hard at it. Just like how the pine tree works hard at staying green throughout the year for our pleasure and green needs. That, or just move to the Southern Hemisphere, it’s summer down there, or get a place in the tropics, you’ll just have to deal with hurricanes and lots of rain. But having each season is truly a pleasure, each makes you grateful for the next one. And yes, you can be grateful for winter as there are no insects (though one can be grateful for insects).
All in all, I think the takeaway from all of this is that Christmas is the child’s holiday. You must look around you at the changes in nature with the wonder in a child’s eye, love unconditionally like a child loves their friends and family, and see the magic in a classic legend regardless of if it is real or not. These things, wonder, beauty in what seems like the grimmest of seasons, family, friends, love of our neighbors, and traditions handed down from generation to generation in the form of stories or some other form, are what makes a holiday unique, what makes our culture different from others. Sure, a holiday that becomes too over-commercialized can lose its charm, but that is why we must fight to keep it. No company and no government is going to keep it for us, that’s all on us. So continue to celebrate this holy day with all the lights, music, and presents you like, but do not put its origins or its stories on the back burner because other traditions seem more important and you just don’t have time. If a candle can wait to be lit or a present isn’t bought, then so be it. Give yourself some time to recollect and share those timeless tales, kept alive by our memories. With that being said, I draw this mess of an article to a close and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and a blessed holiday season. And in the words of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will” (Luke 2:14).