What Is Happening to Christmas?
Is it just me or does it bother anyone else that stores start playing Christmas music during Halloween, and then, on Christmas night, it all disappears? I remember a Christmas a few years ago, when I turned on the radio after 6p.m. on Christmas day and couldn’t find Christmas music anywhere. I mean, even the Sirius radio channels dedicated to Christmas music were gone. What would it hurt to stick around till the New Year? What happened to the twelve days of Christmas? Couldn’t we start a little later and end on Epiphany? But no. Christmas music often ends on Christmas night as some start to take down their trees and decorations. Fortunately, though there are cd’s for those of us who prefer to hear Christmas music throughout the Christmas season, from Christmas day through New Year’s and beyond. Still the lack of Christmas music after Christmas day and the secularization of Christmas has left me wondering, what is happening to Christmas?
I love music and I love Christmas, so of course I love Christmas music. Christmas music filled our home growing up. Every December Dad would bring home the latest album of Christmas music from the gas station. I would load them on our small stereo, three or four at a time, and play them over and over, following the words on the album cover until I had them all memorized. Julie Andrews, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, all of the greats!
I loved caroling the times I was able to get anyone to go with me. Simple songs of the season like Jingle Bells or Frosty the Snowman, as well as traditional religious carols, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger. I loved them all.
As a child I also came to love new songs, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth, and I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas. And beautiful religious carols like Little Drummer Boy, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Gesu Bambino, and the Star Carol.
Over the years I’ve added more songs to my repertoire. Jingle Bell Rock, All I Want for Christmas Is You, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer continues to make me laugh even though I’m now a grandma. Hey, a catchy tune and funny lyrics. What’s not to love?
What Is Happening to Christmas?
As I look back over the years of songs, I found myself wondering, what happened to all of the songs about a small baby born in a manger? What happened to Christmas movies where Christ is front and center, not a non-entity? I enjoy watching cheesy Christmas movies, but there’s only so many stories of Christmas romances and finding love at Christmas time before I begin to ask, what about the source of all love? What about the greatest gift of all? The gift of God in human form?
Cheesy Christmas movies are like spun cotton candy: fun, sugary, but with no substance. They are no substitute for the real thing. Christmas isn’t funny carols, deck the halls and sugar bombs. It is real and messy and full of substance. Christmas can sustain you throughout the dark and cold of winter. It is all about a baby born in a smelly manger with animals watching and no one to help Mary but Joseph. Jesus came as a baby into a messy world, not a sanitized world full of sugar plums, decorations and presents. And yet he was the greatest present ever.
What is Essential about Christmas?
From the earliest celebrations in 300 AD through a time of decline in the 17th century as Christians reacted to excesses in the celebration, how people celebrate Christmas has evolved. Charles Dicken’s writing about the holiday helped save the holiday from passing into obscurity and put it on the path to today’s celebration. (for more on history of Christmas, click here.)
All of the Hallmark Christmas movies and knockoffs of them focus on love and family and holiday traditions. So many of our holiday songs are about the same with no mention of a baby in a manger. While these sentiments are worthy, they aren’t at the heart of what Christmas is all about. When all the presents are opened, new toys broken or forgotten, the decorations put away, holiday food eaten or in the trash, what remains? Me, I bring out my Christmas cds and reflect on the reason for the season.
In our efforts to be inclusive, to create a holiday that all people can enjoy regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, have we lost what was most essential about the holyday? And so, I ask again what is happening to Christmas?
What Are Your Thoughts?
What are your thoughts? Has all of the emphasis on family gatherings, secular traditions, romance, and decorations, enhanced Christmas for you? Has it added another dimension to the holiday, expanding it? Or have we lost what is most important? And if so, how do we get that back?
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