I recently had a debate with a friend about the true meaning of Christmas. The discussion all started over the fact that he felt that people were shoving their Christian holiday down his Jewish throat. While I agree that Christmas to Christians is a religious holiday, I believe that it has long since been superseded by the Christmas of corporate american retailers’ wildest imaginations.
The Christian Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem. Three wise men brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Christians believe that Jesus brought his followers the gift of salvation from their sins thus giving them the gift of eternal life in heaven.
However, the real roots of surrounding the Christmas celebration all seem to be based in Roman traditions celebrating the winter solstice, the return of the sun, and to honour Saturn, the god of Agriculture. It is commonly believed that the December 25th was selected as the date for which to celebrate Christmas as an attempt to replace the pagan Saturnalia festival.
Christmas was not recognized as an official federal holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.
Thanks to some epic marketing on Coka-Cola’s behalf during the 1930’s, Santa Claus has become one of the most recognizable images of Christmas. Parents line up their broods of children in lines for hours to be able to pay someone to take a photograph of their kids with a random mall Santa. Children write letters and emails to the North Pole embellishing to him about how wonderful they have been all year and how they deserve all the most expensive toys.
Then the tradition of gift giving carries on into our adulthood where we continue to be told that we need to make sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. People go absolutely crazy fulfilling their shopping duties without any regard for the damage that they are doing to their credit card balances. Going anywhere near a shopping mall is a near death experience as people rush to finish all their Christmas purchases.
So while I do personally believe in the Christian meaning of Christmas, people have been forced to be so politically correct about celebrating Christmas that I feel it has become more of a corporate holiday exploited by retailers. While many people may celebrate the religious origins of Christmas behind closed doors in their homes, the only Christmas spirit that I have found this holiday season has been the stress of making a list, checking it twice, realizing I forgot to include someone important, opening my already maxed out credit cards to discover that I can’t afford to buy everyone on my list presents that they don’t need, applying for a new credit card to go make sure I can put presents under the tree, and now the anxiety about whether or not the cute sweater I bought someone is going to fit and not remembering if I put the gift receipt in the box with the sweater before I wrapped it, and whether or not my Christmas cards are going to be delivered before the post office closes down for the year.
Has this become the true meaning of Christmas in 2015?