This week, most of us will hear well-meaning newspeople and pundits lecture on the “true meaning of Christmas” – which is as amorphous as a fast-moving cloud. Is it the birth of the man most people know as Jesus Christ? (No one really knows when “Jesus” was born; his birth is celebrated in late December because Christianity needed a celebration to compete with pagan solstice rituals). Is it getting together with family? (That is where many problems start.) Is it a feeling of warm fuzzy goodwill towards all? Maybe.
At the bottom line, though, it’s all about the gifts.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at any given Christmas television special. In the plots of so many of these, the distribution of Christmas gifts (almost always from Santa Claus) is endangered by one threat or another (snowstorm, toy-hating baddies, Santa just being tired of it all) – but lo and behold, at the last minute the gifts come through as they are supposed to in this materialistic nation.
One of the key case studies is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a special near and dear to the Hakim household. You know the story – a mean green Grinch tries to “steal” Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville by taking away all of the gifts. However, Christmas comes anyway, personified by a gleaming star that takes the place of the town Christmas tree.
Now, if the true meaning of Christmas was something other than gifts, the special would have ended right there. But, no – the Grinch is so moved that his heart grows three sizes and he brings back the Whos’ gifts – so they get the warm fuzzy goodwill and the material goods.
What if the Grinch had not brought back the gifts?
I’ll bet that CBS would have shown this just once, instead of thirty-five times (and counting).
Do you think that Walmart, Target, Sears, Best Buy, Home Goods, Old Navy, ad nauseam would sponsor a Christmas special which celebrated the “true meaning of Christmas” – without gifts? How would they feel if even one-quarter of Americans decided to just give warm fuzzy goodwill this year?
All I can say is, I’d hate to be inside their underwear.
At this point, I don’t put too much stock in the “true meaning of Christmas.” I am content to enjoy the holiday lights and the egg nog ice cream and the gingerbread latte and, yes, the warm fuzzy goodwill.(The crappy songs, such as “Jingle Bells” – not so much.) Hey, it’s a holiday, after all – how much meaning does it really need?
Speaking of holidays, enjoy yours - whatever one you celebrate!