This post is for those who are a little less than certain about Christmas, whether Christians concerned about the extent of the consumerism and materialism that modern Christmas celebrations in the West seem to have embraced, or humanists who might share the same concerns, but who also perhaps believe there’s something positive in the message of ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men’.
In these difficult times there seems to be an increasing disillusionment with Christmas, in its current form as a two month long expensive consumer event, which so often seems devoid of any real meaning, and frequently fails to meet our unrealistic expectations.
A lot of people are interested in devising a new version of Christmas.
This is nothing new, of course, many of our traditional Christmas celebrations have no religious connection at all, with the whole history of Christmas being in fact rather complicated. The first record of Christmas being celebrated appears to have been in Rome around 350AD. There are many suggestions why December 25th was chosen, but it seems likely it had no real religious basis. What is certain is that since it’s origin Christmas and how it should be celebrated has changed considerably and been the subject of much debate and disagreement. Celebrating Christmas was banned in England under Oliver Cromwell, and it later came close to dying out during the 1700s. Its revival occurred during the Victorian period, influenced in particular by Charles Dickens – who popularised carol singing, gift giving, family gatherings, feasting and did much to make ‘Merry Christmas’ the traditional festive greeting.
Today’s Christmas looks a little different.
Christmas is now the largest shopping and spending event of the year across much of the world. In the UK 40% of the population are expected to go overdrawn over the Christmas period, with a typical UK family spending between £500 and £700. Many of us overeat and drink too much over Christmas and Boxing Day, consuming on average an estimated 11,000 callories ! The advertising of the mighty spend began at the start of November . . . complete with easy credit, emotional blackmail and over-sweet sentimentality – ponder the Christmas messages contained in the Littlewoods Christmas ad!
Whether you share any part of the Christian faith or not, it’s difficult to connect the Christmas messages of peace, love, family togetherness and compassion, with the consumerism, materialism and general excess that are so often a part of our modern celebrations.
In the words of the Christian organisation Advent Conspiracy; Christmas should be a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love, but has become a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists, and when it’s all over, too many of us are left with unwanted presents, debt, an expanded wasteline and an empty feeling of missed purpose.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can opt-out with a downsized Christmas, an ethical Christmas, a simplicity Christmas or a home-made Christmas when it comes to gifts.
More importantly we can also chose to give our time, our friendship, and our compassion.
Whatever Christmas means to you, have a Merry one.
Photo by mhohimer, via Flickr