What is Christmas?

Christmas is arguably the most widely celebrated holiday in the world only surpassed by New Year’s Day. As its name implies, for Christians it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago, an event which ushered in hope, joy, love and peace. These principles have been embraced in celebration of the holiday both by Christians and non-Christians alike. Similarly Christmas represents a time for gift-giving, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and for relaxation and reflection. Overall the holiday and its season leading through New Year’s Day have come to signify a period of cheer and good will towards all.

As mentioned in my earlier blog, the Christmas footprint on our collective calendar continues to expand as early as October, often eclipsing Thanksgiving, driven almost entirely by the commercial side of Christmas, as annual profit windfall for retailers. Experts estimate Americans will spend $465 billion  on holiday purchases this year, an average of $786 per shopper. While gift-giving is intrinsically tied to the core story of Christmas itself, and its larger cultural traditions, it should never be the main focus of the holiday. Often the greatest gifts one can receive such as love, cherished moments and memories, family reconciliation don’t come packaged in a box.

The increased focused on commercialism have led to debates in the public square between some within Christianity and others outside decrying the commercializing of the nature of the holiday. This debate led one recent column, much of what I enjoyed,  calling for a separate Christian Christmas holiday called “Jesus Day.” While I share Ms. Sullivan’s notion of the importance of a holiday that retains its original intent and meaning, I also appreciate the value of a holiday that is celebrated, legally in countries, the world over, even if not completely for religious reasons. Christians will always celebrate Christmas regardless of the date. Christmas hasn’t always been observed on December 25th, nor is it universally today. Drawing such a distinction on the calendar would further marginalize people from the core principles of the holiday as opposed to inviting them to understand and embrace those ideals.

One of my favorite things about this season is that even while many celebrate Ramadan and Chanukah rather than Christmas, the season still is recognized as a time of hope, joy, love and peace and good cheer. While you might not experience that good cheer on Black Friday, you are likely to experience it in everything from a carol, to a concert, to canned food drive or around a cup of warm hot chocolate after enjoying  holiday ice skating. Regardless of our perspectives let’s embrace the common desire of the season to give and receive love and concern for each other. There is room at the Christmas dinner table, tree, mall (maybe not parking lot) and the manger, for all.

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