What Does Christmas Mean Anyway?

As the yearly shopping frenzy begins, I wonder what it all means. Traditional Christmas movies, for the most part, seem to carry the underlying message that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. However, the shopping centers certainly don’t seem to share this sentiment, but rather are screaming buy this! buy that! buy now! In addition, as the countdown to Christmas descends, I find my daily newspaper stuffed with flyers proclaiming that they have the best gift for that “special someone.” In fact, by the time I get through the advertisements, (which I know I don’t have to look at) I don’t have enough time left to read the newspaper before work.

The expenditure for this one day is becoming phenomenal as substantiated by merchants’ after-Christmas tally sheets. Some people even have bank accounts strictly for buying Christmas gifts. Imagine saving all year to buy gifts for other people, not even knowing if they will like or appreciate what you are giving. Although this is definitely a more practical way to go than using credit, is it really celebrating the true spirit of Christmas? Perhaps this is representative of the modernized spirit of Christmas. After all, society has changed over the years, therefore maybe Christmas needs to be redefined.

Likewise, as with so many other things, perhaps the baby boomers are partly responsible for “changing the face” of Christmas. The boom generation indeed seems to have modified how we practice our religion. Weekly attendance at church is no longer necessary to prove our spiritualness. We make our own rules and define Christianity for ourselves, so why not reinvent Christmas? But what are we reinventing it into?

Is Christmas simply a day for families to get together, to share food, gifts and drinks? If so, then perhaps we should designate December 25th “family day,” as this interpretation does not suggest that it is a religious day. Maybe Christmas is for the materialistic among us to exhibit who is able to purchase the most expensive presents for family and friends. Possibly, Christmas is a day when parents can brag about how many gifts they were able to provide for their young children; “the whole living room was wall to wall presents.” Or maybe it is a day for grandparents to furnish their grandchildren with elaborate gifts, so that after Christmas they can compare notes with other grandparents.

For some, Christmas is a time to help the less fortunate. Many people volunteer to help prepare and serve meals for needy families who might not otherwise be able to enjoy Christmas dinner. Others prepare care packages containing a variety of food and gifts for families with young children, who still display a twinkle in their eye and the belief that Santa has not forgotten them. For some of us who don’t feel comfortable with that extensive an involvement, but who still want to help, we can donate gifts through local agencies, or pick names from various Angel Trees located in Malls in most major cities.

For some, the meaning of Christmas is still primarily religious. They are truly celebrating the birth of Christ. Their celebration may include several get togethers with family and friends, perhaps sharing a small gift, but the focus remains on the religious aspect of the day. For them the Christmas season is mainly one of praying and attending their neighborhood Church.

However I believe for the majority of us the Christmas season includes a combination of all these things. Family and friends joining together to share food, gifts and perhaps a joyous spirit with the less fortunate, topped off by a visit to their community church.