Around this time of year I often hear people in the church saying “Keep the Christ in Christmas” and “I refuse to say Happy Holidays”. Then there are others who during the different seasons get angry at Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Halloween. It frustrates me slightly that these people do not research their history or facts before they go around making political statements with their picket signs and arguments ready at hand. (ok so they don’t literally have picketing signs, but you get the point). It also saddens me that we want others to be so tolerant of our Christmas; but we do not think about their Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, etc. I love Christmas. I am all for Christmas and saying “Merry Christmas”, but when I do say “Happy Holidays” I am talking about all of those Holidays. I wish the best for them in whichever Holidays they are celebrating in this season. It is not an “anti-Christmas” greeting for me.
As they insist on keeping the “Christ in Christmas” some people also look down on Santa, Christmas trees, decorating, and gift giving – blaming these things for taking away the focus of what this holiday is “supposed to be”. I would like to challenge your thinking in this area. For the next few minutes set down your vendetta. Open your heart and mind.
I had an interesting discussion one year about Christmas. Someone told me they did not want to celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents because it took away from celebrating Jesus’ birth. I responded with “I celebrate Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and life everyday in my relationship with Him. Some days I remember and celebrate it more than others, and yes it is nice to have days and times of the year to remind us of those things, but for me its more than just once every December 25th.”
Christmas for me has always been more about the traditions. Hot cocoa. My favorite carols. Picking a card off of the Angel Tree and buying that child a present. Decorating the tree with my family for that moment of “ohh ahhh” when you turn on the lights. Seeing family that lives far away and only gets to come around a few times a year. Reading the “Birth of Christ” from Luke. Yankee Swaps. Gingerbread men… Well, you get the point. It is that feeling of love and togetherness. The little bit of magic that comes when the lights twinkle, the marshmallow in the hot cocoa gets on your nose, and for 5 whole minutes no one is fighting or stressed. We had plenty of presents under the tree every year, but the consumer mentality never was allowed to overwhelm us kids (and I don’t think it did my parents too bad either).
It was what my family made it.
Now a days Christmas has become a day for many children and adults to get whatever they want (and watch out if they don’t get it) and many people go WAY above and beyond what they can afford to get lavish gifts for each other. That, more than Santa being made more important than Jesus, is what worries me about this holiday. I know the importance of Jesus’ life in my everyday existence. I don’t NEED a holiday to remind me. (even though it is nice to stop and remember) As the Holidays evolve in culture we have a choice in how they evolve in our lives. My single friends used to get so bent out of shape at Valentine’s Day. Well, then don’t celebrate it. Its NOT for you. You don’t have to be angry, make faces at people who do, or go ban the holiday (I’m exaggerating a little). If a holiday is not for you, don’t celebrate it. If it is, then CELEBRATE!
Looking at the history for most holidays that are celebrated in America, they follow that same pattern. Most of us don’t actually know their history or traditions beyond what was popular during our childhood (or what adults have told us of how it was when they were kids or how it “should” be). The history is actually quite interesting and mind opening. *If you do not know the history behind the holiday we now call Christmas, I encourage you to read this article: History of Christmas.
For us Christmas is all about family. We will never go into debt to buy the latest things for each other or our children. In the end it will be more important for them to remember laughter over hot cocoa than the fact that they got a new iphone 5 or Wii U. Traditions that we create as a family will determine Christmas for my children. They will be different than the traditions of the people next door. They will be different than the people on the other side of the world.
And that is ok.
You do not have to follow the social standard for what holiday you celebrate or how you celebrate it. Because that is all that it is. A social standard. Whether that standard be set by the media to buy into the consumer mentality, or by the church to banish Santa and celebrate Jesus. You have a choice of how it is celebrated (if it is celebrated) in your home. That same right of choice is available to everyone else as well.
So celebrate however and whatever holiday you choose to celebrate this December. Enjoy it to the fullest with those you love. Be careful not to push your agenda on others. Know what you are actually celebrating before you go claiming what a holiday is “supposed to be”. Enjoy that hot cocoa, Christmas tree, Menorah, gift, Nativity, ham dinner with the cousins, Kinara, Holiday party. However you celebrate, do it with all your heart. Do it with joy. Because honestly, that’s what this season is universally about.