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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Real Meaning of Christmas?

Friends, it's Christmas time.  There's no need to be afraid.  At Christmas time we...  Ooops, got a little caught up in my musical reverie...  Sorry!

Today's post isn't really about the true meaning of Christmas...  exactly.  It's more of a little diatribe about our response to the many feelings and underlying reasons for the season. 

Although we often decry the commercialism that the holiday seems wrapped around these days, we can go a little too far the other way, as well.  Wait!  Am I being blasphemous?  Not at all...  While I love to take time to meditate on the spiritual side of the season, I sometimes think we get a little too pious about it all.  We smugly talk in our churches about being the people who really understand what it's all about, as if the people across town at the mall don't have a clue.

Christmas is celebrated by millions upon millions of people, not all of whom have any real sense about the original purpose of the day.  Is that an awful thing?  I'd offer a resounding, "No!" in answer to that question.  At its very best, the Yuletide season is about giving.  It's about being thankful for one another and showing it by some act or gift.  It's about recognizing the good that's in the world.  And it's about looking beyond ourselves.  It's also just plain fun.  And, in some ways, that's enough.  It's a break from the sameness of much of the rest of the year.  It's an excuse to be a little lax, to be a bit more childlike.  And, it's a marvelous reason to make lots and lots of cookies.

You may think that some of this is rather tongue in cheek.  I assure you that it isn't.  Growing up, religion was the farthest thing from my own families mind in December.  It wasn't a willful disregard, it just wasn't a consideration.  The traditions of faith were entirely supplanted by Santa, Rudolph and Frosty.  True, there was an angel atop the tree, but she looked more like a bee-hived, sleeping Elizabeth Taylor than anything truly heavenly.  We had traditions, though.  The cookies and candy were always the same...  Candy Cane Cookies, made reluctantly but lovingly by my long-suffering mother, Mocha Nut Butterballs and Thumbprint Cookies.  Rich Toffee Square Cookies covered with melted milk chocolate and sliced almonds were also on that list (I must mention these as I made a batch tonight and it's rather hard to stop eating them).  My mother is also famous for her buttery toffee.

You could always count on a full stocking on Christmas morning, as well.  In our family, that stocking would have a new, sparkly ornament attached, and would likely contain Tangy Taffy or Callard and Bowser Chocolate Drops.  Those were really good stockings...  No nuts and oranges, there wasn't enough room!  You might find a good book, though. 

The food was also absolutely delicious...  Cheese Puffs, Stuffed Mushrooms and Deviled Eggs for starters, followed by Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and Fruit Salad.  Dessert included Christmas cookies and candy, a Trifle, a Chocolate Cake and who knows what else.  The leftovers were the best.

Christmas Day almost always included my grandmother and aunt, driving from their home about 40 miles away and causing a rather prolonged wait to get to the stockings and presents.  But, it was always worth it.  Sitting next to my hilarious aunt, making fun of the crazy things my frazzled mother would say as she tried to keep everything going, was one of the highlights of the day.  To this day my aunt and I only have to mention a certain broken punch bowl and a can of Pepsi to each other and we start a laugh fest (I'd explain, but family humor never translates well...).  In short, we had wonderful days, so wonderful in many cases, that the memories have lasted for decades.

What I'm getting at here is that, regardless of one's belief system, one of the joys of Christmas is that it unites people in some of the most delightful circumstances possible.  Before we belittle those more "commercial" aspects of the season, let's take a moment to notice the fact that so many people are engaging in those activities with one aim - to make someone around them happier, to show their love and appreciation and, just to have a really good time.  So, please, don't forget the "true" or deeper meaning of the holiday, it adds a wonderful depth for those who so inclined.  But, for heaven's sake, don't forget the lighter side either.  In other words...  Don't take the "Santa" out of Christmas.

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