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A CHRISTMAS STORY
December 6, 2008 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Every year for as long as I can remember a vocal minority has whined about the exploitation of Christmas. Now it seems fewer people are making more noise, but the complaints are always the same. “The Holiday Is Too Commercial,” remains a perennial favorite immediately followed by “Put Christ Back in XMAS” and “The Reason For The Season.” A few televangelists literally raise millions of dollars between Thanksgiving and Christmas to stem the assault on the spiritual side of Christmas. Despite repeated protestations by some Christians groups and blabber mouths Christmas has become a secular, world-wide holiday.
Go into any corner of the world and you will probably see someone celebrating Christmas. Christmas has certainly become a popular Holiday in the United States. Nearly every business decorates with Christmas lights, bows and ribbon and has merchandise to sell. I do not know but I’ve been told that the infamous brothel, the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, has elaborate Christmas decorations and special rates for the season. Malls, shopping plazas, department stores, not to mention Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target all participate. Hospitals deck the halls as do manufacturing plants (the few we have left) and there are CHRISTMAS trees and XMAS trees for sale and stores and sidewalk vendors and establishments that never sell flowers any other time all selling splendidly colored Poinsettias.
Cities have Christmas Parades (Jamestown has a terrific one) and street decorations (Jamestown has one of the most beautifully decorated and lighted streets in all the world—Third Street. Colorful lights are lit in spectacular arrays on hovels, huts and homes across this country. Front yards brilliantly flicker with red and green and blue and white lights in front yard displays and snow covered bush and shrub. Then, there is the music—Christmas music and carols. There are the Christmas Parties—workers, friends, people of different faiths congregate for a bit of nog—food—Christmas cookies—not parties really—they are more like gatherings where sometimes complete strangers are made to feel welcome. And nearly every woman works like a wife and mother preparing for the festivities. Next are the Cards—some religious some not—but both make reference to the Holiday. Card recipients never just open the envelope, look at the card and discard it—we keep them—we hang them over the mantle, arrange them opened and upright on a table. We even keep cards from strangers—a card from a business that is impersonally printed and mass mailed to thousands is displayed as proudly as the others.
I like Christmas. I never spell Christmas X-M-A-S but that has more to do with my dislike for abbreviations and acronyms than a dis on the holiday. There are times when I wish people a HAPPY HOLIDAY and other times I use MERRY CHRISTMAS as in hoping you have one. All our Swedish relatives and friends wish us ‘God Jul’ and I believe it impossible to form the words of that particular greeting without a great big smile or even a hearty laugh. Sweden celebrates Christmas for two months. St. Lucia’s Day, December 13 the eldest daughter in a Swedish family dons a headdress of flaming candles and serves her family Lussekatter (sweet rolls I think) and coffee in bed and the Christmas celebration gets underway. One might observe that while people in Sweden may not appear overtly religious they sure like Christmas.
I would like to think that the reputed Divine Everyman for whom all this attention germinated might be really surprised about a world picking a day at random to celebrate his birth—he would be a bit confused I suppose. There is no clear record that he ever spoke about Christmas, then again there is no clear record that he ever spoke about the Pope, the Vatican, the Crystal Cathedral or the Southern Baptist Convention. I suspect that he might have been aghast at that vulgar English King who killed his Queens and became the head of a world-wide Church. With that in mind it is truly remarkable that for a brief Christmas Season Churches of every stripe seem to unite. There is no better time in all the year for anyone to visit a local religious edifice than at Christmas Eve. Catholic, Protestant, Anglican—all celebrants—in joyful adoration—and the music—the light and lively—the solemn—the great anthems—great trumpet solos and organ renditions. In that place, in that moment peace on earth and good will toward men exists however briefly and it is good.
One would suppose that the decriers of the death of Christmas might be pleased that for a brief but busy season people might be happy—that people might sing and celebrate and show a degree of kindness toward one another. I cannot but think that the Personage this holiday represents would be disapproving—even for the commercialization—businesses rely on Christmas sales for a 4Q (Fourth Quarter) boost that also acts as a buffer for the dead days of January and February. Hickory Farms gets 90% of their annual sales during the Christmas sales season. Be not deceived—Christmas—for the believer and the non-believer—Christmas—despite moments of human madness in the crush of rush—the randomly picked birthday—has become permanently imprinted in the human DNA.
So MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, GOOD CHEER OR EVEN MERRY XMAS—the Christmas Reason is good—even for those who do not directly celebrate the holiday.
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