I’ve been unpacking boxes of Christmas ornaments.
In the boxes, there are the little drummer boys that Sara and Erin made with their grandmother thirty years ago, fragile glass ornaments and precious works of art that say, “best Nana ever”. There are gifts from friends and special pieces Mom gave me. Some are many decades old; others were given in love just a year ago. Each piece brings to mind a memory; a story of joy from a Christmas past.
As a child, the Christmas season was a time of religiosity, celebration, and presents. I didn’t grow up in a home of privilege but at Christmas, you wouldn’t know that. Mom went into overdrive and when I became a mother, I kept many of the traditions I learned from her. I don’t make “Bea’s Christmas Punch”, and I’ve never successfully pulled off her kiffle recipe, but a lot of “what Christmas is to me” is what she and Dad modeled.
I’ve been unpacking the Christmas story too.
Many religious scholars are confident that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25. The shepherds were likely not in the fields watching over their sheep in December, Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem for a census which wouldn’t have taken place when roads were potentially icy and, based on John the Baptist’s birth date, and what scripture tells us about their ages, Jesus was likely born in September.
The consensus is that the Roman Catholic Church chose December 25 because it was shortly after the winter solstice when pagans celebrated the “birthday of the sun”. Changing the day from a “pagan” to “holy” one made sense. (The coincidence of Birthday of the Son and birthday of the sun, isn’t lost on me.)
Back to the unpacking….
….when did Christmas become mostly about
trees, lights, Santa, elves, reindeer, and presents?
When did Christmas become less about Christ?
Santa Claus had a humble beginning, too.
Sinterklass (Santa Claus)—short for Sint Nikolass (St. Nicholas), was a third-century, Turkish monk who gave all he had to help the poor. One year, during the annual celebration of his December 6th birthday, an artist drew a sketch of Sint Nikolass carrying stockings filled with small toys, and by the early 1800s stores started advertising Christmas shopping with the now popularized “Santa Claus”. Obviously, the birth of Jesus wasn’t always linked with Santa Claus!
It can be easy to get caught up in the commercialism and lose the true meaning of this season. People are often exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated. After Christmas, many parents are explaining to their children why Santa brought other children better presents than they received. Sad, right?
• When you unpack your Christmas rituals, do they bring you joy or are they simply more things you “have to get done”?
• Are you buying out of genuine love, or are you simply checking off a list (maybe twice) to make sure that you have something (no matter what) for everyone?
• Is the giving motivated by the season or by previously set expectations?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a Christmas that
celebrates the birth of Christ and love for each other.
In fact, that seems appropriate.
It’s only when we unpack the stuff, but not the story,
that we lose sight of what’s really important.
When I was a child, we always went to Christmas Eve Mass. In 1966, there was an intense snowstorm that started on December 24th. Snow was coming down hard and piling up fast. It became apparent that there would be no way to drive to the service where my Dad was supposed to be the song leader. He decided that it would be safer for us to stay home but that, in spite of the blizzard conditions, he would walk to church and be there to sing for anyone who made it.
What an impression that made on an eight-year-old girl. Amen to a man who always knew what truly mattered in life. That’s one of the many Christmas stories I’m blessed to unpack.
This year, as always, we’ll repeat another tradition that my parents handed down: on Christmas Eve, after church, Larry will read “The Christmas Story according to Luke” before we have our “Birthday Cake for Baby Jesus” complete with candles (of course) which the grandkids will blow out.
Later we’ll visit friends. Everyone will head home and the grandkids will put on their pajamas and go to bed to wait for the Santa they now know isn’t real. There’s synergy between the secular traditions and the “reason for the season” and, in that harmony, there’s joy.
I pray that, for you, these last two weeks before Christmas are filled with awe and splendor and peace as you unpack your Christmas.
©2018 Peace Full Home®/Intentional Living
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