By Dave Hood
What is the meaning of Christmas? It all depends. For many, Christmas is a sad time. It reminds people of their losses, perhaps a failed marriage, or death of loved one, or being out of work. It is also a sad time because it reminds people of what they desire, a loving relationship instead of being alone, by one’s self.
For many, Christmas has lost its true meaning: just an excuse for retails to sell their merchandise to consumers who feel pressure to give expensive gifts to people who don’t really need another iPhone upgrade or bottle of perfume.
For many children, Christmas means Santa Claus visiting on Christmas eve, placing gifts, such as iPhones, Barbie dolls, Transformers, and other gifts of delight under the Christmas tree. For other children, Christmas is a time to doubt the existence of Santa. A century ago a young child named Virginia wrote a letter to the newspaper, inquiring about whether Santa existed. The newspaper responded with these words,”“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS”
For some, Christmas is a holiday, a time of escape from a stressful, overworked career or dreary, mindless work. It’s a day to relax, spend time with the girlfriend, the spouse, the kids.
For some, Christmas is still a religious event, a sacred occasion to celebrate the birth of Christ, through singing of Christmas Carols at a church service, attending midnight mass, listening to the message, engaging in prayer and other religious rituals. Pope Francis reminds us that” Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.”
Public figures have said many things about Christmas:Bob Hope, the comedian and entertainer once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
The late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher commented, “Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends.”
Singer/songwriter, Amy Grant, tells us, “Faith is salted and peppered through everything at Christmas. And I love at least one night by the Christmas tree to sing and feel the quiet holiness of that time that’s set apart to celebrate love, friendship, and God’s gift of the Christ child.”
For me, Christmas is all of these meanings and more. Despite the stress, the loss, the materialism, the symbols of the season, the doubts of faith, I still believe in celebration, listening to Christmas Carols, putting up the tree, perhaps attending a church service, watching shows and films with a Christmas theme, such as White Christmas or Christmas on 34th Street, exchanging of small gifts, spending time with my elderly parents and girlfriend, savoring a turkey dinner, remember those who have died— grandmothers, uncles, aunts, as well as relationships that have drifted. Most important, Christmas is about goodwill and peace to others, if only for a day.
For me, Christmastime also means contemplating another passing year, making New Years Resolutions, bringing in the New Year with a few beers with a friend, expressing hope for the future.I’m counting my blessings for another year of relative happiness and good physical and mental health.
Without celebration, daily life becomes a grind. Without celebration, daily life becomes routine, and so Christmas is just another ordinary day. One risks experiencing existential angst, living a life without meaning or purpose at Christmas. Life is far too short. And so, while we are here, we must find a way to enjoy it. Celebration nurtures the spiritual within us. Christmas is a time to celebrate.
Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the rushing to the mall, purchasing more gifts. Nor is it uncovered by trying to make Christmas the perfect celebration, nor is it felt by taking on the spirit of Scrooge, expressing words that are like, “humbug to Christmas.” We discover joy when we learn to savor the particulars of the Christmas season. Savoring requires us to stop and be mindful, to experience the celebration with our senses. For instance, we can use our hearing to listen to the beautiful Christmas Carols, such as O Holy Night. We can use our sight to fill the soul with the decorations and colors of the Christmas tree. We can use our taste to appreciate a tasty turkey dinner.
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” (Calvin Coolidge, former President)
About Dave HoodLover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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Okay, so What is The Real Meaning of Christmas?
In the previous blog on How to Give a Gift that Matters, I talked about how materialistically crazy Christmas has become. For many, especially children, the meaning of Christmas is simply how many good presents they get. But as we all know (hopefully), that’s not the real meaning of Christmas.
As we get older, we realize that there’s more to it than presents. Every now and then there will be a movie or news story on television about some truly generous giver. And with that, we are reminded of a better perspective on the holidays; that it is like Jesus said, “More blessed to give than to receive.”
So then, the real meaning of Christmas is giving, right? Well actually, no.
For many, Christmas is either merry or depressing because of how many good presents they are able to give. And for some, because their financial situation makes it very difficult to give, they have come to hate the Christmas holidays because of all the giving. Whether your focus is on getting presents or on giving presents – either way, the true meaning of Christmas is NOT about the presents.
So, if the true meaning of Christmas is not about giving or receiving presents, then what?
Many Facebook and blog commentators wrote that the most difficult part of Christmas for them was missing a person who was not with them any more.
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Amanda wrote: The best part of Christmas is being with my family. the worst part is not having my grandfather here anymore. He passed away in august of 2010, 3 weeks before my birthday. He always was the life of every family gathering, especially Christmas when he dressed up as Santa. Every year when he dressed up I always had a picture taken with him…I’m only 22 and he’s been my everything. It’s hard knowing he’s not here. He got me Santa figurines every year as a present. Now i buy one every year to remember him.
Tragedy will always help us recalibrate our values. It shakes us up and brings us back to reality. Those of you who are regular listeners to DM LIVE radio program or who follow us on Facebook, know about the tragedy in my family; that my son, Fulton, was seriously injured in a car accident and was in a coma. There was great uncertainty about if and when he would come out of the coma.
It’s like the old Cat Stephens’ song (way before your time) “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”With my son Fulton’s accident I have been forced to stare this truth in the face. Yes, I’m just like the rest of you, and especially like those for whom tragedy (or near tragedy) is a reminder to us of what is really important. Christmas is so much more than presents, receiving them or even giving them.
So then, the real meaning of Christmas is about the people in your life that you love – right?
As much as I feel the importance of loved ones at this moment (and will be reminded of it every Christmas for the rest of my life) No, that’s not the real meaning of Christmas. There are people all over the world who love their friends and family, but who do not celebrate Christmas.
Okay, so what is the real meaning of Christmas?
I’m no Scrooge. Christmas is partly about giving and receiving gifts and it is about celebrating the family and friends in our lives. But the real meaning of Christmas is something even higher, bigger, and infinitely better than all of that.
Christmas is about totally pure, unconditional, irrepressible, inconceivably awesome, self-denying TRUE LOVE.
John was one of twelve disciples of Jesus, and he wrote the book in the Bible known as The Gospel of John. The word gospelmeans Good News.
John, Disciple of Jesus, wrote: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
I like what Michelle wrote on our Facebook page. I could easily understand how Christmas could be the worst time of the year for her. But she seems to have put it all together, realizing the importance of the people in her life, the real meaning of Christmas, and because of both of those things, the true joy of giving.
Michelle wrote: The hardest part of Christmas was losing my mom on December 26th to cancer. The Best part of Christmas is celebrating the true reason for the season – the birth of baby Jesus and the HOPE He brings to all. Another best part of Christmas for me is visiting the cancer center where my mom had treatments and giving a teddy bear to a cancer patient from Build-A-Bear workshop in honor and in memory of my mom. Bittersweet moment but well worth the tears :o)
Allow me to share with you the Christmas story in this video:
Merry Christmas to you all!