For someone so far removed from the Abrahamic faiths as a whole, let alone Christianity, I love Christmas. This includes the religious aspects. Yes, Christmas does surprisingly have a strongly religious origin though based on how it’s celebrated by the majority of people, sometimes one wouldn’t think so.
I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I would write long, pleading letters to Santa asking for a list of toys. I would diligently set up the stockings above the fireplace, prepare the milk and cookies, and eagerly await his arrival. I had my heart broken when I realized Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and my father had eerily similar handwriting. I continued, and still continue, to compile my Christmas lists…with limited success in getting anything.
Obviously I celebrate a slightly more secular version of the holiday, but it doesn’t mean I forget the meaning of Christmas…at least the original meaning. I would love to, one day, attend a midnight mass. It seems like such a profound experience, steeped in meaning. There is something very beautiful in the church displays of the Nativity scene, all those gathered gazing with devotion upon the newborn Jesus, outwardly vulnerable but even then, worthy of exaltation as the Savior.
Maybe it’s because I’m an adult, and maybe it’s because I’m cynical by nature, but it seems that there is no humanity left in the holiday anymore. Even the feel-good movies of the season, the ones that always end with “and that’s the real meaning of Christmas” feel empty and fake. What is Christmas now? It feels like, for many (though of course not all), Black Friday is the new Christmas. Naturally, shopping precedes Christmas, since presents are hallmark during this, perhaps the most important of holidays in the Christian calendar…and I suppose in general (at least for people growing up in the United States and other Western nations). Yet anticipation of the Christmas shopping season has reached an almost maniacal level, especially given the way the economy is faring.
For those of you who are reading this and are from countries other than the United States, let me fill you in on Black Friday. Black Friday marks the day after Thanksgiving, and is notable because stores have some of the steepest discounts of the season. People start lining up before midnight, in some cases, so that when the doors open they can get at the best merchandise.
I wouldn’t complain so much about how humanity is lost during the holidays, except for this little tidbit that was in the news:
Yes, people trampled over a worker and killed him in the frenzy to get inside the Walmart. Yes, apparently, they fought off rescue personnel, who were apparently getting in the way of their shopping. Can you imagine what it must be like to have hundreds of feet stomping on your chest, feeling as your ribs crack, your lungs are punctured, and slowly you lose air and people pay no regard to you as you lie dying. All for a bargain? I understand people are hurting because our economy is hurting, and while we may want to shop for presents and get a good deal, still, where is the humanity when your fellow man has fallen and lies dying under your feet? I happened to catch a glimpse of the aforementioned Walmart from my train as it hurtled home, and I felt sick inside.
While I’m not saying it should be all about Christ at Christmas time–some Indian holidays have a tendency to veer on the side of materialism too in some cases–at least try not to forget that there is a little more to the season than rampant materialism and discounts. Whether that’s the religious aspect, or at least the aspect of generosity and compassion sans religious connotations, there is more to the holiday than is apparent in the way it is celebrated by many people. Give gifts, but know why you bought them, and why you are giving them to the loved ones in your life.