Redefining Christmas

December 19th, 2009—The year of the worst Christmas I can remember

christmas 2009

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But what does that really mean? What makes it wonderful? Is it truly because it is a celebration of the birth of my Savior? Is it because of the music and lights and the beautiful decorations? Is it because there really is a Christmas spirit and people feel happier at this time of year? Is it because of family and friends? Is it because of holiday traditions? Is it the food? The presents? I have been told that if you think you are allergic to a certain food, then you should take it out of your diet and see if the symptoms that caused you to think you were allergic have gone away. In the same way, if you take something out of Christmas that you think doesn’t “make” Christmas, it will show you if it truly does. I always viewed Christmas as my favorite season. That time between the day after Halloween when they take down all of those horrible decorations, when the candy that didn’t sell goes on sale and when all of the TV specials cease featuring witches and goblins and magic and horror. A time when everyone starts thinking about cooking for Thanksgiving and all of the college students scramble for somewhere to go for a home-cooked meal away from home. Around Thanksgiving also happens to be my birthday which adds to the merriment of the season. Then the day after Thanksgiving you start to hear Christmas music played in stores to remind shoppers to shop and on every radio station so that you can feel Christmas-y in whatever your preferred genre might be. As the days draw closer and closer to Christmas, almost every movie on TV is a remake of “The Christmas Carol” or is a knockoff of another Christmas movie about how a woman wakes up in a parallel universe married to another man with the life she had always wondered if she should have chosen. On top of all that, you have Christmas cards to send and a visual reminder of how the people who send you cards have growing families.

christmas food

But this year is different.

The toy commercials are still running. The Christmas cards are still coming. The Christmas music is still playing. The city is still decorated up like it is every year. The calendar still displays December and the days are drawing ever closer to the one that culminates the essence of what I have been waiting for since that same day last year.

This year there is an economic depression though.

depression 2009

There will be no stockings hung by the fire with care, though I’ve always known that Saint Nicholas would not be there. There is no Christmas tree full of tinsel and lights. And our food budget is keeping our meals rather light. There will be no presents, no gifts to exchange. We’ll still hold a party for Jesus but it’s just not the same.


I always thought that the gifts didn’t matter but I guess that’s not the only thing that’s making a clatter. The Christmas spirit is not one of merriment and excitement any longer. Everyone feels bad that they can’t show their love and thoughtfulness for one another through the normal routines. We’ve always had at least a small tree. But this year we didn’t get to go pick out a tree. No pulling out the decorations and taking pictures of the glee. The rest of the house is not being decorated either. Only a reminder of the lack. Christmas day will be different with hours to kill. No excitement and warnings not to shake the beautiful packages. Nothing new to use to fill the day. Only hours left wasting away.


Now this doesn’t have to be the case. This is the pessimistic view I’m sure. But it does make you wonder if money’s all the cure. What of this holiday I once thought so dear? Is it really the money that so greatly endears? And what of my Savior who I so adore? Where does He fit in my Christmas galore? Normally we attend a Christmas Eve service or we read the birth story. Sometimes we even take communion. On Christmas day my mom usually makes a cake and we wish Jesus a very happy birthday. But that should be the point. Why is it not so? He’s the main focus, but where did He go?

I want back my joy, the excitement I felt. I want to truly know the true meaning of the season. I want to enjoy the lights and the music not because there is money but even in spite of it. And when there is none I want there still to be the true lasting joy that says that I can rejoice because my Savior came as He promised.


I guess this year You allowed me to see all of the commercialism that lives in me. I want it gone. I want Christmas redefined.

What does Christmas really mean to you? Have you ever thought about that? Sure you have. You know the things you like and what makes it feel like a wonderful holiday. You’ve experienced the joy of the season and to top it all off, you even know the true Reason for the season. Since you have sufficiently answered the question, you can file it away in that box in the back of your brain. Then the next time you come across that answer, you can whip open that file and pull out your nice typed answer complete with rhymed format on none other than the very holy “Jesus is the Reason for the season” stationary.

most wonderful time

Now this question will be redundant but I’ll ask it anyway. What really makes Christmas “the most wonderful time of the year”? Is it truly because it is a celebration of the birth of your Savior? Is it because of the music and lights and the beautiful decorations? Is it because there really is a Christmas spirit and people feel happier at this time of year? Is it because of family and friends? Is it because of holiday traditions? Is it the food? The presents? The caroling? Snow? Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

I’ve heard that if you think you might have a food allergy, you should begin eliminating one item for a certain period of time and keep rotating through the possibilities until you have found the problem. Following the same rationale, what if you were to take away one thing from your holiday season?


Say it was the music. As much as we all love hearing the classics by our favorite artist and in every genre imaginable, I’d say we could do without them. There would be a lot less for the advertising industry to work with and we’d have to learn to do something entertaining when we go caroling instead of singing, I’m sure it could still be done and the season would still be as magical as it has always been.


What if food was what was taken away. Now mind you we have all experienced the turkey being burned and the rest of the meal being a disaster, missing Christmas dinner because we were sitting in traffic or were working, having the flu or being on a diet and not being able to eat it, or some other understandable explanation. Fortunately, we’ve always lived and there’s always next year to look forward to.

But what if something were removed that isn’t Christmas-y at all? What if there was the loss of the breadwinner’s job? A self-owned business not doing well? A family tragedy in which all the money went to pay for treatment of a loved one? What if there was an economic depression? Would Christmas still be Christmas?

Stop. Don’t say it. Actually, don’t even think it. I don’t want to hear the Christian textbook answer off of the paper you are still holding in your hand that you pulled out when you started reading this. Think for a moment because unless you have experienced it, there is more of an effect than you realize.

That tradition of going to the lot and finding a Christmas tree with your family is not going to happen. Obviously there will be no need to take pictures or listen to Christmas music while you decorate the tree. Good thing there won’t be a tree there because it will only remind your children of the presents that won’t be under the tree. Christmas cards are a luxury and you might not need to send them by mail when a nice email might suffice. That fancy meal you always have will need to be downsized a bit to something more affordable. Sure you can still watch all the Christmas specials, hear your favorite Christmas songs, and decorate with enough lights to be seen from space, but your budget will be in bad shape when you get your electric bill in January. No need to drive or fly to a relative’s house as gas and plane tickets are both bank-breakers this year even with all the deals and gimmicks your nearly maxed out credit card is offering. Don’t forget that your normal Christmas Eve and Christmas day routines will need to be altered. What will you do? Go to bed early and sleep late? Pretend it’s just another day? Moreover, for the entire season leading up to that one long-awaited day, what will your mood be? Will all of those sale commercials make you bitter? Will you grieve over not being able to give? and get? Will you be singing along about how this is truly “the most wonderful time of the year”?


Hmmm. . . definitely some food for thought. . .

So let’s go back to that nice paper you hold in your hand. If this were your lot, how would you answer this question?

I’ve figured out the answer. At least my answer. Yours may be different. But as for me, I’ve decided that Christmas needs a change. My mom once told me of her idea to have a “Presents Day”. That way Christmas isn’t commercialized and the focus is not on getting and giving but about truly celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ who really is the Reason for the season. If that were to be the case, there would just be no Presents Day but Christmas would still be Christmas and all the things that you enjoy about Christmas would still be there for enjoyment.

carols pageant  soup kitchen

Christmas traditions may still revolve around friends and family and even the sharing of a meal or two together. Regardless of what was served, the focus would be on the company. The focus of the day would be on celebrating the Savior’s birth. Maybe children could be helped to reenact the Biblical account of the events surrounding the birth of the Christ. Possibly an instrument could be used in adding to the joy of singing Christmas carols together and maybe even dancing together. Soup kitchens can always use volunteers in serving meals. Nursing homes could be visited and the Good News could be shared. Games could be played and time spent together. A fascinatingly inspirational story could be read while cuddled around a fire. As for a gift exchange, not having much money could force you to be creative. Maybe a homemade scarf or blanket. A collage of photos. A letter telling the person how much they mean. A hand-illustrated book telling of an adventure you had together. A promise of a picnic or of flying a kite on a windy day. Piano lessons, a hair updo, or movie you made yourself are all wonderful gifts that truly come from the heart.

Christmas is still Christmas even if your financial situation or other circumstances inhibit your preferred way to celebrate it. Have the true Christmas spirit and share it this Christmas season. Merry Christmas.


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