|Written by Paul Race for Family Christmas Online™|
Why I Need Christmas - from Family Christmas Online™In a word: hope.
Christmas reminds us that we are not alone, that things really can get better, and that the cynics aren't always right.
From my earliest childhood, I have appreciated the sense of wonder and hope that came every year when the tree went up and the nativity came out. As parents, Shelia and I tried to convey that sense of wonder and hope to our children.
Sometimes I run into people who would rather skip Christmas altogether. That's their perogative, of course. Where I start to draw the line, though, is when I run into people who would rather I skipped Christmas altogether.
"Your Christmas Decorations Offend Me" - A few people - a very few, really - think that it's wrong for us to inflict our cultural icons on people who don't share our religious beliefs. Ironically, those don't tend to be people of other religions - my Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu friends believe that I have as much right to celebrate my religious holidays as they have to celebrate theirs. And I try to be as respectful of their holidays - and holy days - as they are of mine.
Rather, the complainers tend to be people who feel they have some grievance against Christmas or God or the church or Christians or religion in general. And some of those grievances stem from actual bad things that have happened to them in the name of religion. I am truly sorry that such things have happened to these people.
But I am not impressed by people who seem to think that everyone who believes in anything should be locked away from public view or who take offense that some of us - even folks who share the same grievous experiences - still find comfort in our faith and its seasonal expressions.
If you are as offended as you pretend to be by our expressions of faith - or even by the most secular icons of Christmas (Santa, Christmas Trees, Rudolph, etc.) my first response is, frankly, to say "Get over yourself." But on a deeper level, I pray you find some measure of the peace that the Christmas season promises, even if it doesn't always deliver like the old movies say it should (that's Hollywood's fault, not Christmas'). I really do wish you the best.
"Christmas is a Sham" - Just this side of people who are offended by Christmas for one reason or another are folks who think they've "seen through" Christmas and everything that it implies. To them, people who take Christmas seriously are deluded, if not outright too stupid to know better.
One of my most memorable run-ins with people like this was at an insurance company where I was a contract technical writer in December, 2001. After seeing some Christmas decorations in the office, I thought it would be nice to bring something in. Two of the secretaries made a point of ridiculing me - a glorified "temp" - for thinking I had any business bringing in Christmas decorations or - for that matter - taking Christmas seriously.
But that year, I needed to take Christmas seriously. Our family was still recovering from financial hardship caused by a recent recession in my industry and from emotional hardship that I'll address further down. I needed a Child in a manger, candles in the window, and - as the song says - carols by the spinet.
When I had to interact with the secretaries over the next two weeks - which was unavoidable - they continued to make it clear that I was stupid for thinking A: that I was a person, and B: that Christmas was more than a reason to spend too much money, eat too much food, and get too drunk at the parties.
The truth is, the rest of the department was far more dysfunctional, in ways that made my responsibilities mind-numbing and onerous, and I breathed a sigh of relief when my contract wasn't extended. But the secretary's disdain for me because I had the nerve to love Christmas in their workspace, that was personal. (So was them listening in on all of my phone calls, but that's another issue.)
It took me a while to figure out just why the whole experience bothered me as much as it did. I think it's because people who didn't know me at all, didn't know my family, and didn't know what we had been through thought they had a right to make assumptions about me and my need - there, I said it - my need to find some sort of joy and peace in that holiday season.
"Christmas is Hard for Me This Year" - The people with whom I am most sympathetic are those who have suffered grief or other hardship during the Christmas season and have a hard time drawing "comfort and joy" from anything Christmas. In fact our family has almost made a tradition of losing friends and relatives during the holiday season, and we know all too well what it is to celebrate the first Christmas without a beloved family member.
In our family, we try to draw what peace we can from our faith and from the season and move on. Not everyone is equipped for that, but it's not my place to judge other people for responding differently than we do to grief or hardship. Again, our prayers are with you.
But I do draw the line when folks start using their grief or distress as an excuse for telling other people how they should - or should not - celebrate Christmas. Our family suffered a "worst case scenario" of that in the late 1990s, a few years before my experience at the insurance company.
"I Hate Christmas, So You Should, Too" - That was when our church got a new pastor with - shall we say - some unresolved issues. We learned later that his family used to have big arguments every Christmas so he "hated Christmas" (his own words). Though he never put it into words, his actions made it clear that an ideal Christmas season to him was one in which the church decorated as little as possible, sang as few Christmas songs as possible, and - in short - took almost no notice of the birth of Christ. That way he could skate through the season without too many difficult memories being revived.
I was the worship leader, though, and totally unaware of his plan to reduce the Christmas season to four weeks of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and one unavoidable "Christmas service." I was also unaware of just how tightly wound the fellow was. When I asked him why we couldn't do any Christmas songs during Advent, he took it as a personal affront and initiated a series of crises that eventually forced us to leave the church - just after that unavoidable "Christmas service" with a "sermon" about how hard Christmas was for people like him and how thoughtless the rest of us were for wanting to celebrate it. (That's a huge oversimplification of what was a long, traumatic experience for us, by the way. But we didn't blame Christmas for what happened or go into the next church saying "I hate Christmas, so you should, too.")
That pastor's treatment of our family aside, the factor that relates to this article is his sense that having traumatic Christmases in his childhood somehow authorized him to deny everyone around him of the joys of Christmas. Even if it resulted in traumatizing other families who had been counting on finding hope and peace that they needed in their lives through the songs, traditions, and story of Christmas that year.
Unbeknownst to the new pastor, several members of that church were dealing - not with unresolved childhood issues - but with real, recent grief. The kind that comes from losing a family member just before Christmas, and makes the next few Christmases bittersweet, if not outright painful. For families like that, surviving Christmas is a sort of emotional tightrope anyway. For the pastor to turn the season into a time of crisis and recrimination so he wouldn't have to deal with his own issues was inexcusable.
Other families were in the middle of other crises, and looking for Christmas to give them some peace and perspective. All of us had been looking forward to celebrating the coming of the Messiah with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How does the unresolved childhood trauma of a man whose chosen career is supposed to be about helping people trump all of that? It doesn't.
"You May Celebrate Christmas, Just Not Too Heartily" - Since those days, I've heard the "some people have a hard time with the Christmas season, so you shouldn't celebrate it too enthusiastically" argument again and again. Often this kind of sentiment comes from people who think they have a grievance against God or against the church or against the holiday for some reason, so they don't like seeing too many lights or hearing too many carols. Again, if you feel that way, I'm sorry for your hurt, and pray it heals.
Also, if you find the loud, bright, fake cheerful Christmas commercials and the radio's heavy rotation of this year's pop Christmas hit grating, well, so do I. (Each year I find myself hoping that this is the last Christmas that I will ever have to hear "Last Christmas.") I am not defending the insane commercialization of Christmas as a reason to spend too much money on things you don't need. Feel free to gripe about that sort of thing as much as you want, with my support. But I'm talking about individuals, families, churches, and communities celebrating Christmas just because they want to bring a little peace and joy into their lives and the lives of those around them.
For every person who objects to such efforts, I know many, many more people who need Christmas every year, who need the comfort of the old carols and traditions, the reminder of God's great love for us, the gentle urging to be kinder to others, and much, much more. And if that offends you, you really do need to get over yourself.
"More is Merrier" - The year after that pastor tried to make us feel guilty for celebrating Christmas, I put up more decorations, sang more Christmas songs, led Christmas songs in the Advent services of another church, and did whatever I could to make other folks' Christmases more spiritual and more fulfilling.
Years later (and not as a result of that experience), we started a web site dedicated to Christmas and started stockpiling it with memories, stories, songs, crafts, and other resources to help any family make their Christmas a little more fun, a little more joyful, and a little richer in all the right ways. Since then, I've heard from countless readers who appreciated our efforts. Not one has asked for less, though I confess that quite a few have asked for more. More traditions, more patterns, more stories, more songs, you name it.
Earning a living and trying to meet other kinds of needs has kept me from adding everything I'd like, but at least we know we're headed the right direction.
And if you're tempted to think that someone in your life is being too nostalgic, or too sentimental, or too enthusiastic or too unenthusiastic about Christmas, just remember - like the fellow who thought his unresolved childhood issues gave him the right to judge how everyone else celebrated Christmas - you may have no idea what secret hurts, private griefs, or other issues that person is dealing with.
Better to come alongside them, to join them in one more verse of the carol, to help them hang one more strand of tinsel, or to give one more word of encouragement, if that's what it takes to bring comfort. And you'll be surprised how much it does for you, too.
May God bless you and help you to be a blessing this holiday season.
- Paul and Shelia Race
Reader ResponseI recently received this e-mail from a friend who lives in a community that prides itself on being "open-minded" and "progressive," both of which seem to be code words for "too intelligent for Christmas."
Now, I light my house up a lot each year. I do it for the local kids, myself and for my husband, whose own childhood Christmases were anything but joyful (but that's a story for another day).
This year I noticed that at least three houses that have lights every year were dark. I was surprised and asked the homeowners about it. Two of them said, "We're sick and tired of people complaining about them!"
I was internally livid, right up until the moment, two days later, when I plugged in the 15th plug that lights a small portion of the fence and my blowmold Santa.
Then a Christmas miracle happened! I looked down the street to see that all three of those houses were suddenly lit up for Christmas! With a vengeance!
Of course I had to stop by and see what happened. It turned out that one of the "leading progressives" in town had twittered satisfaction that so few houses were decorated this year. According to a tweet, which went to almost everyone in the village, this was a positive indicator that the village's citizens were finally realizing that "Christmas is crap."
Apparently that one tweet sent people ALL OVER THE VILLAGE into a flurry of activity. One woman even put out her wooden Nativity scene, something she had not done in years! And another told me that she actually went into church to light a candle and plans on attending an Advent event at the local Catholic church.
It was a Christmas miracle - kind of - so I'm hoping for a white Christmas this year, despite the weather predictions.
Note: Family Christmas Online™ is a trademark of Breakthrough Communications(tm) (www.btcomm.com).
All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 2006, 2007, 2008,
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Paul D. Race.
Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
For more information, please contact us
|Popular Gifts, Decorations, and Collectibles|
|Visit our affiliated sites:|
|- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -|
|- Family Activities and Crafts -|
|- Trains and Hobbies -|
|- Music -|