We are a few weeks into the new year, and by now, most people are getting back into a routine after Christmas chaos. But I’m gonna take you back for a second to reflect on the flood of cheer from which we have just emerged.
What’s the big deal about Christmas, anyway? Why is it the biggest holiday of the year (at least in America)? Businesses close, people take vacation time, and schools break for multiple weeks, just for this one day. I’m not the only one who has noticed the significance of all the hullabaloo. Movies, tv specials, and holiday-themed events are all obsessed with the question, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” We all want an explanation for why we must feel obligated to buy gifts for everyone we know once a year. Do we really need to make such a big deal just to show each other love and appreciation? If that is all it is about, why isn’t Thanksgiving, or even Valentine’s Day on the same level?
There is no denying the fact that Christmas is special. There really is a different feeling in the air. Despite the greedy shoppers and exhausted workers, everyone seems to have a little extra sparkle in their eyes and a little more spring in their step. While I may not understand the rationality behind this strangely contagious joy of the holidays, I am certainly not immune. Christmas music, food, and decorations all give me that warm fuzzy feeling inside that I only get in December.
In all honesty, it’s probably a social construct. Yes, I am joyful in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. To me, Christmas is a recognition that God incarnate took the form of a baby in a manger in preparation for His plan to save us sinners of the world. I do not want to minimize that. But at the same time, I understand human nature enough to know that this is not what that mysterious “Christmas feeling” comes from. After all, Easter does not have the same effect and that is the day that the salvation was actually accomplished.
For me, I think Christmas is special because of the memories. This was my 20th Christmas and my family is big on traditions. Christmas is drinking apple cider while decorating the Christmas tree. It is getting coffee and listening to Christmas music while driving around to look at Christmas lights in our pajamas. It’s watching “Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys” and forcing my dad to watch “Elf,” yet again. It’s stressing about exams and the relief of being done with another semester. It’s being cooped up in the car for 16 hours during our semiannual road trip to Ohio. It is seeing the family I only see twice a year. Late night wrapping, ice cream trips, and movies with my mom and sister. It’s playing with babies and baking cookies. And that is all just in the lead-up to the actual day.
Those are the reasons why I love the Christmas season. But, everyone has different memories and traditions. And while we walk around in winter clothes (which for us Floridians are the same as summer, spring, and fall), shop for the perfect gifts, and sing Christmas songs to ourselves, we are all looking forward to our own versions of the holiday season. I think this is the source of that special Christmas energy. You can’t define it because it is different for everyone. And yet it is something that we all wordlessly understand. The two most common answers to the true meaning of Christmas are Jesus and showing love to family and friends. Jesus is the reason for salvation, and thus the actual day celebrating his birth. But, showing love to family and friends is how we act out appreciation for that salvation. In the end, not everyone may be able to pinpoint it, but I think this is the true reason for the joyous atmosphere of the celebratory season and consequently, our current cheer-exhaustion.