Jenni pointed me to this rant by Stingray at Atomic Nerds about the commercialization of Christmas. It seems that at about this point, nearly every year, I find myself making an empty vow that I will never participate in commercial Christmas again. I pretty much hate trying like mad to find that special something for each and every person on my list. Most of the time I’ll find an item here or there that’s a no-brainer for someone in particular, and then when we’re getting down to the line, I’ll desperately throw my hard-earned money at some other stuff that will do so no one will feel left out. It’s psychotic! And yet, I know that I’m not alone. Lots and lots of people do the very same thing. Year after year, I claim to myself that I will never do it again, and year after year, I do the very same thing all over again. Our household is basically on a spending freeze until after the first of the year. What was supposed to be a really cool gunnie Christmas has turned into a frantic run to empty assets as quickly as possible.
After reading the above mentioned rant, I found my friend, Wai’s words in the comment section:
I don’t care what you say, Stingray, I still believe in God, Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. I feel the same way you do about the commercialization of Christmas, which is why I don’t buy into any of it. I went to Catholic school and became so disillusioned by all the hypocrisy that I became, not only an atheist, but an anti-God bonehead. Throughout the years of personal strife, I came to let God back into my heart and at once, I felt inner peace that I had never felt before. I don’t believe in organized religion by any means, but God is always and forever and will always be my saviour.
And, that’s one of the many things I like about him. I’ve tried on several occasions to bully him into starting up his own blog, but he apparently is not to be bullied into such things. He makes so many excellent points in his comment that I can’t really touch on all of them. for one, I’m not about to get started on my atheist rant right now. But, words like these convict me that I have lost sight of what the celebration is really about. It’s not about getting a shiny new gun, or fancy electronics, or boots or hats, or a tacky tie. It’s not about spending my hard-earned cash on some piece of crap that the receiver won’t even like, nor is it about finding that perfect present that a loved one will cherish forever. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark special, what is Christmas really about?
Most biblical scholars agree that Christ was not, in fact born on December 25. In Rome, December 25 was the pagan celebration of the Winter solstice, a time of wild partying, since the sun was not in fact going to disappear forever, yet again for another year. Early Christians adopted this date, as the ambient celebration would mask their risky, religious holiday. Christians were not well-liked at the time, and open celebration could get them thrown to the lions. Ironically, many historians agree that Jesus was born on September 11, 3 B.C.
The ‘wise men’ or ‘magi’ traveled from the far East to see the King of Kings who had be prophesied. These magicians were astronomers and astrologers. Something was lost in the English translations, referring to the star that they followed, as the original text refers to a cosmic event of some sort. We make a distinctions between different bodies in the heavens, and events in the sky. The textual reference to the star that they followed may have been more general than our language can allow, and actually referred to a conjunction between the moon and the constellation Virgo, in a form that has only ever happened once. It was a symbolic conjunction that told these ‘wise men’ that a virgin was giving birth to the Savior. They were able to calculate when the conjunction would occur and where it would be most visible from on the globe. This told them exactly where Christ was born. If this is true, the same conjunction is described in the book of Revelation.
These visitors from the East bought three symbolic treasures with them. Gold represented the wealth of royalty and showed respect to Jesus as being the one true king. Frankincense represented the priesthood of Christ, as it was used in ceremony by the priestly class. Myrrh symbolized the fact that the child was born to die. Myrrh was used as a fragrant embalming agent, and is a resin, harvested by gashing the commiphora tree. It bleeds out of the gashes and is collected after it hardens. So, the magi from the orient knew exactly who they were coming to see – probably on a far deeper level than Mary and Joseph.
Three hundred some-odd years later, a boy named Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara on the southern coast of Turkey. He was orphaned while relatively young, and his parents left him a fortune. As he grew, his religious convictions led him to use his wealth to the benefit of others. There are legends about his generosity of Robin Hood proportions. Multiple stories tell of him throwing bags of gold through the open windows of the needy, landing in the shoes which were left by the fireplace to dry (hence stockings for gifts). Nicholas became Bishop of Myra and was known as the patron and protector of children. St. Nicholas spent time in prison because of his faith, and the anniversary of his death was celebrated for centuries on December 6. I’m not really sure how St. Nicholas got inducted into the whole Christmas celebration beyond the closeness of the dates of December 6 and 25.
Fast forward a thousand years, give or take, and filter the holiday and traditions through Norse religion. Santa took on Thor characteristics and gained a ‘helper’ based on Thor’s greatest enemy, Loki. Thus was born a demon-like creature, Krampus, which means ‘claw’ in old German. So the lore went: The list was kept and checked twice. The nice children got treats from Santa. The naughty children got beaten and whipped by ‘Claws’, and were left with lumps of coal and switches. In Austria and other parts of Europe today, Krampus is highly celebrated in a tradition that’s like our Halloween – but for grown-ups to scare little kids – and with booze instead of candy – and everybody gets schnockered.
Somehow, Krampus got left off the boat when Christmas came to the New World. Santa kept the ‘Claus’, but only in name. We grew up hearing about the jolly old elf who shook like a bowl full of jelly, who magically comes down the chimney perhaps due to Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston… Then, Christmas became commercialized. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman inexplicably entered the holiday in the mid-century. Christmas was taken over by industry and hard sales. Even the Oklahoma City Zoo got in on the action to wheedle themselves into a hippopotamus.
Now, so-called ‘Black Friday’ Christmas sales make up 20% of annual retail sales. Some say the Saturday before Christmas is even busier. This is not to mention Cyber Monday or the stragglers that run amok on Christmas Eve. The sheer amount of money that changes hands due to this holiday is mind-boggling.
Public schools can no longer promote ‘Christmas,’ as it may offend those of other faiths. My child’s school has no ‘Christmas’ programs, but instead has ‘Seasonal’ programs where the kids will sing about snow (which doesn’t even happen often in this part of the country). The lights and signs in people’s lawns say ‘season’s greetings’ or ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘merry Christmas. The poison known as political correctness has all but completely driven the reason out of the season. Christmas is regrettably no longer a Christian holiday. It has returned to the pagans in the worship of money and wordly goods, and the celebration of nothing more than going into debt.
So, what is the true meaning of Christmas? Can we go all the way back and celebrate it as an unprecedented event that took place on the most significant 9/11 in the history of the Universe – that was even worth designing the history of the sky around? Is it about throwing sacks of gold through people’s windows, hoping you can score in a sock or a shoe? Is it about scaring the living crap out of little kids so they’ll do what their parents tell them to? Is it about spending every last penny you have, and then going into debt to benefit no other than industry in a gambling-addict-like craze?
Or, can it be as simple as my friend, Wai put it? I would like to think so. Jenni and I were able to purchase some nice gifts for a few people. We don’t presume that it’s the reason for the holiday. We will spend time with friends and family, and we will remember God’s love and His gift to us. I believe that’s the reason for the season. If you are reading this, I hope you can see through the lights, plastic, and glaze and feel His love as well. Merry Christmas, everyone!