I have read articles over the years about how Christmas is a combination of Christian and pagan symbolism along with some folklore traditions and for the most part this is true. I also realize that most people do not want to hear about such things. Beyond the bah humbug, I will admit that even though Christmas is not as much fun now as it was when I was a kid or when our children were young, I still enjoy the season. To me, Christmas has always been a special time and heaven forbid I use the term, “magical” but as a child, my overactive imagination had no problem believing the Christmas story especially after I learned about Saint Nicholas that knows everything and can give every child in the world exactly what they want. Now that we are adults, it seems we still hold onto the memories of Christmas past and even have a little excitement left for Christmas future no matter how old we are.
I was thinking about some of the things I do not enjoy about Christmas like for example, the traffic when trying to shop is a headache and how it seems people are not always in a “Currier and Ives” festive mood. The high level of stress and anxiety to make sure everything is perfect, attempts to turn our happy celebrations into something that resembles a torture chamber. The pressure of making sure the house is decorated just right, the food is delicious and finding the perfect gifts, take an exhausting toll on all of us. And let’s not forget about the intense commercialism that bombards us with advertising and turns everything into a money driven frenzy. But, for the sake of all those involved, we will continue our merry traditions until we cannot do it anymore because spending time with our loved ones for the holiday makes us all happy. What is there not to like? The lighted tree, feasting at banquet tables with the most rich delicacies of the year and everyone enjoying themselves are the ingredients for a wonderful occasion. Remember the carol that reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Still, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about the spiritual parts and pieces of a supposedly Christian holiday, after all, I was also taught this was when Jesus was born. Come to find out, syncretism is the perfect opportunity to blend in all types of traditions and rituals into one grand finale. We have a nativity on one side, the historical pagan contributions and the Santa story all at the same time. I understand for those who are not a Christian, this is no big deal because a party is a party, but the Bible says that the more we learn the more we are accountable for. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live because who am I, besides everyone is going to do whatever they want. I also believe we can become so legalistic that we turn away those we might have a chance to discuss subjects like this and if we are against everything and end up living alone in a tent, I cannot see how this is a good idea either. On the other hand, I have wondered how many would celebrate Christmas if it was only about Jesus coming to save us. It’s popular to remember him as a new-born as this connects with the birthday concept, but what if there were no Christmas trees, or an obese man dressed in red with a white beard? What if Santa had no supernatural powers like being omnipresent and the ability to visit every home in the world in one night? Without the sparkling lights, the shiny wrapping paper, the ham and pecan pie, the music, and the children getting all excited about the gifts, Christmas day would probably pass by quietly like Groundhog Day. And this is what concerns me. Between the wise men, the winter solstice traditions and the flying reindeer, we will find our reason for the season.
Dr. Holland lives in central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more, visit billyhollandministries.com.