“What, already?!” I hear you ask, a note of panic in your voice. Today marks two months until Christmas, which means that Christmassy stuff is already showing up in advertizing, and it is probably only a matter of time before they start playing Christmas (or should that be Xmas?) music in the shops.
In fact, I have heard that in the Philippines they have been playing Christmas music for at least a month now. But before we rush to judge, let us remember that they are living under a Marcos/Duterte government, and therefore are in need of all the jollity they can muster.
It has to be said, though, that generally speaking, Christmas shopping music is not an evoker of jollity. Particularly for those poor souls working in retail who spend their days hearing the same Xmassy album or two over and over and over again – something which should probably be covered by the Geneva Convention.
Which leads one to wonder: how much of the usual stuff done at this time of the year is actually being enjoyed by those who do it?
There are the illuminated decorations which do their best to pad out your power bill, the tickets for travel which cost so much more than at other times of the year, the crowded malls, the struggle to find parking, the angst of trying to find a suitable gift for a person who is not in need (and may not even have many unsatisfied wants), the noise, the logistics, the endless Fat Old Man in Red, the plastic, the packaging, the stress of Getting It All Done In Time…
And at the end of it all, a meal that may or may not be a feast compared to your usual fare, and a gathering of people whose company you may or may not have the time and headspace to enjoy, and the giving and receiving of things which may not be even wanted, let alone needed.
Where in all this, I ask myself, is the true joy of Christmas – and the Christ of Christmas? Maybe you manage to squeeze in a short church service in amongst the busy prep, if you’re not too tired. Maybe you get a treacly rendition of Silent Night in amongst the Santa Baby and the Jingle Bells (a song which, ironically, does not even mention Christmas, but is still played in the Southern Hemisphere summer to mark that event).
It may be that Christ means no more to you than the first part of the word Christmas. But regardless of our position on Christ, we should all be asking ourselves: what am I doing, and why am I doing it? If Christ is nothing to you (or even if He is, really), then why not do your family-and-food thing some other time? Have the annual family get-together early, beat the rush.
And if Christ means everything to you, then does your festivity reflect that? For myself, I find myself hungering for a Christmas that is all about Christ, which does not involve lots of shopping, or a crammed calendar, or stress, or Santa Baby, or anything involving a mall or the Fat Old Man in Red.
I’d like a Christmas that is quiet. A Christmas that sings of joy. A Christmas that tells the wonderful story again, with time to marvel. A Christmas that gives to those who really need.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with giving gifts to your loved ones (even if not in need), or decorations (illuminated or otherwise), or a nicer than usual meal – if those things bring joy. But all too often Christmas turns into a To Do list to get through by a certain date, and there is no joy in that.
So my wish for you – as well as myself – this year, is that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ will be a time of deep joy, and that the 25th of December will be a day without stress.
6 Replies to “‘Tis the Season”
Amen! Having heard about other countries where the commercial stuff is rare, and where the northern winter is not celebrated in summer, I know we can celebrate just the birth of Jesus.
I do try asking for nativity stuff in the cheap & cheerful shops which are doling out red and white stuff by the mile to celebrate a fat man in a red suit, and occasionally I find it.
Another sad thing about Easter and Christmas in the secular West is that they are both seen as times to indulge in chocolate, and to teach children to do the same. I have no memories of chocolate being part of Christmas, except for the occasional box of chocolates, when we might choose one in a day to eke them out.
My favourite thing about the season is the huge number of traditional and modern Christmas carols and songs which do talk about the birth of Christ. My own tradition is to sing a different one each day (I’ve got 4 books). They give me a sense of connection to the medieval peasants and townsfolk who were doing the same thing centuries ago.
Sounds like a great tradition! I’d certainly like to have more carols in my Christmas 🙂
20 or 30 years ago, my dad gave me an article (opinion piece) clipped from the Wall St. Journal. It suggested that Christmas be divided into 2 holidays: Nativity and Excessmas. Nativity would be the reflective time, candles, carols, quietness to absorb the truth of the event; Excessmas would be all the red and white rah-rah, shopping, gifts, parties, and of course the Fat Old Man in a Red Suit. I wish I had saved that article.
P.S. I chased your site down from a comment on a Marianne Willburn article and believe it will be a keeper!
Nativity and Excessmas – what a great idea! It looks like the idea – and the WSJ article – came from William C. Wood (williamcwood.com/excessmas)
Alas, here in New Zealand (quite a secular society) Excessmas is definitely the more apparent, but is still branded as Christmas – or sometimes Xmas. Coming across anything Nativity-related is an unexpected delight.
I suspect there are a number of things that could do with having their religious and secular aspects separated. Weddings, for example. We had to do government paperwork in the middle of our church wedding ceremony, which, when you think about it, is really rather strange!
Thanks for stopping by and contributing!
I’d like to separate the Resurrection from the Festival of the Chocolate Egg–Laying Rabbit, which, in the Southern Hemisphere, would make more sense in September or October, to the extent that it makes any sense at all.
I’m not sure that any month is going to make sense of eating round dark things dropped by a rabbit.