What is Christmas?
In the Western world we recognize December 25th as Jesus Christ’s birthday. It is the day to celebrate His birth. We know that December 25th is not His actual birthday but exact records were not kept in those times. Christianity embraced December 25th as an answer to Pagan’s celebration of Winter solstice. You also know the story of Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus. He travels the world in a split-second at the stroke of midnight on December 25th. He rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer to deliver toys (or coal) to all the children of the world. There are several folk-lore stories brought together into the story of Santa. This is Christmas.
Over the years Christmas became more about giving and getting gifts. And less about remembering Jesus’ birth. How much time do people, especially Christians, spend shopping and buying presents? All the while, celebrating the idea of Santa? What about the time spent acknowledging and celebrating Jesus? I’ll offer an unscientific but educated guess. The time spent on Santa is far greater than the time spent on Jesus. Christmas is now a celebration of office parties and family reunions. It’s about shopping for that right gift for the gift exchange. It’s the time of year where most retailers operate in the black. It’s not so much to cebrate Jesus’s birth anymore.
When we got married we adopted and created family traditions. One was from my wife’s family. We would read the story of Jesus’ birth Christmas Eve night. And we created one of our own. Unbeknownst to the children we would get a real tree on Christmas Eve. We would put it up and decorate it at night after the children were asleep. When the children woke up on Christmas morning they would see the tree all decorated. And presents under it. It was truly special hearing them get all excited. Then come running to our room to exclaim Santa had come AND brought a tree.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
We love the holiday cheer that comes this time of year. It is nice to see smiles on people’s faces as we go about running errands. We have Christmas music playing in our home through the season. We still engage in festivities surrounding Christmas, such as the parties and reunions. But we no longer celebrate the gift exchange on Christmas morning with our children. We have chosen to celebrate Jesus’ birth only and give Him 100% of our attention on December 25th. We are no longer distracted by the commercialization and “gift getting”. Because, after all, it is the most wonderful time of the year. We recognize that our savior was born.
It was not an easy decision. I did not want my children to feel left out of the Christmas Santa Claus tradition. I did not want them to be envious of their friends and peers who were getting presents. I do want them to understand that Jesus’ birth is more important than that thing that someone bought them.
Yet, I am not a complete grinch. We still put up the tree on Christmas Eve, now involving the older children. After contemplating how to remove commercialization from Jesus’ birthday, I found a solution. New Year’s New Stuff. What that means is instead of opening presents on Christmas, we open them on New Year’s. Right after the countdown. The anticipation of the end of the year and opening presents at 12:01 am is more fun than on Christmas morning. The children appreciate that we focus on Jesus on December 25th. And have embraced the idea of “New Year’s New Stuff”.