Before we begin, let’s first revisit the true meaning of Christmas. Its not “giving”, its not “sharing,” its not “doing charity,” although all of those are good things and we can make a logical argument why they are related to Christmas. But really, the holiday is the observance/recognition/celebration/remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. Linus explains that pretty clearly to all the Peanuts kids. And yes – I know about winter Solstice and harvest festivals, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, etc. etc. But, still, Christmas is about Jesus Christ’s birth even if it is on December 25 for some random reason that has nothing to do with the Bible that some folks long time ago thought would be a good day.
Now that we’ve got that straightened out, here’s how we’re doing this thing all wrong, causing ourselves a bunch of stress.
Note, that I am writing this blogpost surrounded by open boxes of gold ribbon, sparkly ornaments, statues of angels and snowmen, and green garland, while taking a break from draping everything in my house in boughs of holly. So, yes, I am including myself in that “we.”
We treat Christmas as the “Give Everyone You Have Ever Seen in the Past Year a Gift” Day. Why am I giving the dude who drops off my newspaper or cuts my grass a Christmas gift? Why is my dentist sending me a Christmas card? My kids’ teachers and coaches are nice people, but why do I need to give each and every one of them a Christmas gift? I don’t even know if all these people are Christians. Why don’t we give some of these people gifts on a day that makes more sense? Give the grass cutter his tip at the end of summer. Give the coach a gift at the end of the season. Give the teacher a gift during Teacher Appreciation week or on the last day of school as an apology for all the headaches your child has caused. Why Christmas?
We try to include everyone in Christmas. I had to catch myself the other day as I was looking for Christmas cards (which I haven’t sent out yet.) I picked up cards with a Nativity scene and Bible verses on them, then started looking for a box that I could send to people who may not be Christian. Why? I said to myself. Why am I looking for not-too-Christmas-y Christmas cards to send to non-Christians? This doesn’t even make sense! I’ve never received a Hannakuh card, am not offended by that and doubt that my Jewish friends even think twice about it.
Giving folks random stuff as gifts. With all the gifting, we give pretty bad gifts. Why, oh why, do we think that giving someone an icescraper is a good gift? Or underwear? Or any other thing that you grabbed up from the CVS aisle on December 24th? The other day, we were in the store and saw a gift package – it had a razor, shaving cream, and deodorant all wrapped up in a pretty box. My kids and I laughed so hard - this is a terrible gift. It says “here, I was thinking about how hairy and smelly you are – Merry Christmas.” What? Why is that giftboxed? Because we panic when we look at the 5011 people on our gift list and start just grabbing random nonsense off the shelves and sticking a bow on it. Cut your list to people you really care about, buy them something with thought. I’d rather get a candy cane than a bottle of shaving cream.
We threaten to “take away Christmas.” What’s the go-to response when our kids act up or don’t do so great on their report card, especially post-Thanksgiving when Santa starts making his list? But we can’t “take away Christmas” anymore than we can take away Saturday or the sun coming up. December 25 is coming regardless of what your kid does, unless he can stop time. What we really mean is we are not going to give them gifts if they don’t what we want them to do. But this conditionality isn’t what Christmas is about; in fact, it’s the opposite. God sent Jesus because He loved His people. Unconditionally. And after the folks still acted up – in the Bible and since then - God didn’t say “too bad – no more Jesus for you.” Jesus is the full earthly embodiment of unconditional love. This is what we should model in our Christmas celebration, not threatening to take away a box of Legos or a doll because our kids didn’t make up their bed.
We think everybody should celebrate Christmas… or nobody should. I didn’t even pay attention to that Starbucks red cup thing since I don’t need a coffee house to tell me how and when to celebrate a religious holiday. How much energy and debate goes on each year over whether there should be a Nativity scene in the town square, whether the kids should sing Rudolph in the Winter Concert, why we can’t hang a Santa on the school door, _______ (fill in the blank with your neighborhood example.) Observe your own holiday, be respectful of others who may or may not wish to join you, don’t be offended if a symbol of Christmas dares to cross your sight.
Even Non-Christians let themselves get stressed out about Christmas. I kinda feel bad for people who aren’t Christian, because I assume its some kind of social pressure that makes them come up with an associated celebration of a holiday that they don’t celebrate. They have to mail out some kind of cards, explain to their kids who Santa is and why he’s not coming to their house, or pack up and head to Hawaii to get away from all the boughs of holly. (Okay, I don’t feel bad for those people on the beach.) If I was non-Christian, I think I would like to ignore all the Christmas hoopla and focus on my normal life or the trauma its going to cause my kids.
The Elf on the Shelf. I’m just so glad that this phenomenon caught on after my kids were too old to be amused by it. That’s all.
Letting all the ways we're "supposed" to enjoy Christmas stress us out. Yes, Christmas has morphed into this religious, but also secular, holiday and the meaning gets lost in the shuffle sometime. That’s something we each have to work out for our own households. But while we’re doing it – let’s get rid of the extras that add to our stress and stop doing the stuff that doesn't bring us joy so that we can truly enjoy the spirit of the holiday instead of approaching it dreading all the work it "requires." And in the meantime, I’ll be dancing with the Peanuts gang and the Jackson 5 and watering my poinsettias.