Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas (No Humbug)

The path of true love never did run smooth. It's never more true than with God's love for mankind. Just ask anyone who was at the heart of the miraculous story of the virgin birth. But you'd best side-step the question nowadays. Most everyone is offended, apparently,  buy the mere mention of our deepest affections, our most ancient sentiments, the core of our beliefs.

Of course this isn't true. It's a cultural lie. We have far more tolerance than we're given credit for, at least here in the mainland, despite the vague sort of pressure that's coming from 'them', those Scrooges who exist in the social consciousness, to silence the words "Merry Christmas". They may as well bury us with a stake of holly in our hearts.

Decades, even millenia of tradition have shaped the modern European/American definition of the holiday (a word that comes from holy day) from the practice of hanging greenery and singing special songs, to the gift-giving frenzy that literally drives economies. It's all rather a phenomenon of gargantuan proportions. 

The legend of Kris Kringle, St Nicholas, or more recently Santa Claus has been at the heart of the celebration of the birth of Christ for as long as western civilization existed, and every western culture and a few eastern ones too, have traditions a mile long. In addition, every celebrating family has their own brand of festivity. 

Every December of my 56 year old memory has been filled with the anticipation of the 25th day. There are countdowns of every imaginable kind, but none with such magnetic attraction as the calendar in my head. Each year is different yet the charm of the season continues to deepen for me as I grow older. My own tradition encompasses a rich musical heritage and a lion's share of baking and eating along with gift giving on a modest scale, (although that term is relative when it comes to Christmas).
We generally visit the re-telling of the original nativity story in multiple ways, including engaging in some musical performance of one type or another. We set up a tree, and hang decorations inside and out. We find a way to give to the less fortunate, and we are all rather warmed up but worn out when it's all over. There is always, for me a defining moment each year, a still, quiet moment when, like the Grinch, I realise the true meaning of Christmas and am changed in some way. It's all rather magical.

Give up "Merry Christmas" in favor of "Happy Holidays"? I'd rather die. My initial reaction is that it's not as much about my faith, if I were brutally honest, though that  does figure in. It's about a practice so steeped in tradition that it's as  inseparable to my being as the flour is to an already baked sugar cookie, or should I say the as the brandy is to the frutcake, but a practice that springs from faith, I am reminded. No holiday has been created simply to be a holiday. There has to be a core, a heart. And the birth of Christ the Savior of mankind is at the heart of Christmas, the reason for 'the spirit of giving'. 

Many times I've tried to imagine a world, a year without Christmas. So far I have failed.