Well, another year passed and another Christmas Day celebrated in pure holiday fervor. Yet at the end of the day, there is yet another opportunity to contemplate the day's activities, and more importantly, those of the season. Had I done what I needed to do to prepare myself, mentally, and spiritually for the season?
It also forces me to look at the world around me, and what goes on there to prepare for the holidays. I think it's easy to tell where the minds of most are at this time of the year -- children have come to expect the presents and benefits that come with having a commercial Christmas. Ads on TV start before Halloween, and gimmicks and sales penetrate the average person's mind with upsetting ease. Then there are the annoying commercials that you simply cannot ever get out of your head (the Hess truck theme song comes to mind) and of course the looming reminder that as soon as Thanksgiving is over, you better be ready to put on your elbow pads and shin guards to get through the open doors first on Black Friday.
Christmas is actually not my favorite holiday. To be honest, I'm not sure which one is. I guess if I had to pick I'd say Thanksgiving. Though in my Utopian dreams I daydream myself away to a place where I have a small Thanksgiving celebration with maybe just a future wife. Just the two of us, thankful for the little bit that we do happen to have, as opposed to going home and having a giant Thanksgiving celebration.
Everyone always talks about remembering the 'reason for the season.' I'm all for celebrating the holiday for Jesus, but with all the other distractions, I find it aggravatingly hard to do so, when I'm so focused on what the heck I'm going to get Mom for Christmas. I love the feeling of giving gifts -- seeing the reactions to them can be the best (or worst, for that matter) thing on Christmas morning. But things are done differently in my family. One condition the Gobat's find imperative is to wait for all members to be present prior to unwrapping a gift. I never had one of those Christmas mornings as a youngin' where I would dash out to the living room at 6am and ferociously tear the wrapping paper off of the delights Santa had so generously left underneath the towering 8ft pine tree in our living room. Sure, my brother and I were still up at 6am (and sometimes earlier) but I distinctly remember sitting on the living room couches and reading Harry Potter until my parents decided to drag themselves out of bed, despite their exhausting task of moving numerous packages in silence while we anxiously slept, awaiting the next day's treasures. To this day, this necessity to have everyone watch each other open gifts is continued. Most times, gifts on Christmas morning becomes gifts on Christmas afternoon; we tend to be late to everything. But that's just the way it is -- and at this point, it's whatever.
Society molds us from as young as we can remember, that Christmas is about presents. The fact that Santa Claus even exists for the sake of a child, while perhaps a fun tradition and story, is just another deception that leads the young mind to believe that Christmas is not about the religious background or giving to others, but instead about simply getting, getting, getting. What's the first question you are always asked when you return from winter break?: "What did you get for Christmas?"
Never is it, "How did your spiritual renewal go?" or "What did you get for others this Christmas?"
Perhaps that's just the way the American lifestyle. But I think perhaps parents are too driven to please their children via gifts. Whether you think your kid needs or it not, whether you think you can buy their love or not, I just don't think that's the way to go. Every Christmas I end it feeling selfish, for being disappointed that I didn't get enough of this, or that this wasn't exactly what I wanted. What's wrong with me? For I simply can't appreciate all of the things I already have -- and the addition of some new things to an already relatively lavish lifestyle. There is a roof over my head, I go to a great University, I always have clothes to wear. I have a car that I can borrow when needed, and no curfew. At dinner tonight I couldn't help but feel a twang of guilt, thinking of all of the people that shivered in the cold, doing their best to warm their hands, while I gluttonously feasted on turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and almonds, warm corn bread and stuffing. I can eat to my heart's content, and then some. And then I can come back and eat a billion Christmas cookies on top of that. You can say money doesn't matter all you want -- but to some extent, it's a necessity, and it's nice to be able to have enough just to be able to enjoy those things.
I don't know what the Christmases of the future hold. And I understand fully that not everyone is religious. Therefore, the media and the companies of the country simply cannot put a religious overtone on the holiday, despite the fact that it is viewed, at least by Catholics, as one of the most important religious holidays of the year (second only to Easter). At church last night, and all previous Christmases, I was amazed at purely how many people there were. We condescendingly call them the C&E's. The Christmas-Easters. The people who attend church for the sake of attending church, twice out of the year. Those who disregard their weekly obligation and opportunity to renew their faith, enrich their lives, and recharge their Jesus batteries. I'm so happy I've found people to go to church with weekly, who enjoy going, and have the desire to grow in faith as much as I do (you two know who you are!). And yet, while I stood their in church, proudly singing the songs (though no one else does) I couldn't help but think, well, at least they are here tonight. And in the end, I suppose if they had to pick 2 times out of the year to go to church, those 2 nights would be the best 2. Church, however often it is attended, in my opinion, is a great thing. In my case, a special time, and to others, perhaps just a way to go about the holiday, or maybe an excuse to themselves to prove that they actually do attend mass. Either way, in the end, they were there.
And thus we soon turn our attention to the leftovers of Christmas and the turn of another year in history. Top ten lists are made, and news stories recapping the year are published. People munch on the leftovers of their Christmas feasts, run out the next day to return unwanted gifts but also to celebrate the desired ones. And long in advance Christmas was in our thoughts, it is suddenly gone. The lights begin to come down, and usually within a week after, you begin to see the used trees solemnly strewn to the curb, awaiting it's deliverance to a chopper or something like that. To be honest, I don't even know where they go.
To wrap it all up, all I can say is what a holiday. It'd be interesting to look at it all from an outside perspective -- we make SUCH a big deal out of it; and I wholeheartedly think we should! But perhaps we focus too much on the wrong sort of things, and relinquish our minds to the selfish desires we secretly as well as publicly carry with us -- a time of year to spoil ourselves and each other. This is certainly America. My only hope, is that in the coming year, I better myself as a person, and when the time for the Christmas of 2011 rolls around, I will have prepared myself for the celebration in true religious fashion -- in addition to the gifts that are coupled with it. Merry Christmas everyone, and to all a good night.