Someone asked … so here’s my answer.
That is a loaded question. I could go the simple route and state the obvious answer, but it’s really more than that. Honestly it is a really tough topic to write about. I started out by sitting down and writing words that popped into my head when I think of Christmas. I eventually noticed two themes in the word list. I’ll try to summarize.
I had a long list of religious symbols; Christ, star, cross, manger, nativity, sheep, 3 wise men, angels, etc. Christ is the reason for the season. Regardless why the holiday started and all the secular traditions that were incorporated into the holiday to attract the pagans to Christianity, for me it revolves around Christ, first and foremost. It wasn’t always that way. But today it does. It is a time of hope for me. The hope that is, because of Christ. The gift of grace. Nothing I can ever do will get me into heaven with the exception of accepting Jesus as my savior and accepting God’s gift of grace. That’s it. And that is hope!
I had another long list of memories or images and feelings; warmth, joy, anticipation, family, kids, presents, food, candy, etc. I think after the religious side this is the most important. This list is probably more influential than the religious side because I embraced this stuff long before becoming a Christian. I still remember all of it. It’s deeply ingrained.
I remember trips to grandparents’ homes. My dad’s mom always had a dinner on Christmas Eve and that’s when that whole side of the family got together. No ands, ifs or buts about it. When we moved from Cleveland to Dayton we were still expected to there for Christmas Eve dinner and presents. And it was always a long drive home for Christmas in Dayton. We’d leave at 9 or 10pm and not get home until 1am. I have a foggy memory of my dad carrying me in from the car one year. And to be honest until I a got married and then again when my first daughter was born I don’t ever remember an embrace from my dad. Instead of waking me he carried me. I’ll remember that.
Once I figured out who Santa really was (thanks Grandpa!) I became a Christmas cynic. Why? Santa was based on a lie. And I even asked my parents about it. And they lied. I promised myself that when my kids were old enough to ask, I would tell the truth. And I have. The funny thing is they knew long before they asked. I asked why they waited and my youngest replied “I didn’t want to stop getting gifts”. Capitalism at it’s best … and the lie goes both ways … 😦
Shortly after I “knew” my parents started to use the big gift excuse to combine my Christmas and birthday gifts. Yeah, my birthday falls a few days after Christmas and before the new year. One year I got only one gift. I had a choice, open it on Christmas or my birthday. I decided to make a point that the two are separate and I should have more (thank you capitalism) than one gift. It wasn’t fair that my brother and sisters got more. I didn’t open the gift until sometime in January. It was worth it. It was a 4.5″ reflector telescope. I still have it. It still works. It was probable the best gift I got. It’s the only one I really remember.
I guess to summarize you cannot have Christmas without the elements of Christ, the capitalism and the family traditions and memories. It’s what makes up this holiday. All the fun, the memories, the toys, the waste. And I really don’t plan on breaking traditions .. just adding new ones.