Warning: I am mounting my little soap-box. If you have strong views on Christmas, you may find this post objectionable!

My childhood Christmases below the Sahara were low-key. Four people singing carols around a tiny Casio keyboard. A small prayer-time. Eating my mother’s ‘paal-choru’ (milk rice). Exchanging visits with expatriate neighbours, mostly non-Christian. Hardly any Christmas decorations. Inexpensive gifts exchanged between families – perhaps a box of chocolates for some Christmas cake. It is possible my memory is playing tricks on me, but I am fairly certain that if I was given a gift, it was for my birthday – not Christmas. I remember reading books about Christmases overseas, longing for that opulent glow.

I now live in a city where that opulence is easy to create. How incongruous that here many find Christmas difficult. Budgets, already strained, crack under the weight of Christmas trappings. We try to capture something we once had, or longed to have. For those who have lost loved ones, grief is keener at Christmas. The pain of a broken family is more intense, as children miss out on Christmas with one, or both, parents. We feel disconnected from society in some way – lonely.

As I chat with people, loneliness is named most often as the reason why people find Christmas difficult.

It’s easy to say lonely people have the wrong perspective. Let’s look deeper. Our letter-boxes contain sales catalogues with jewellery that lovers can exchange for Christmas, spa packages for couples, and menus for the family roast. We walk into shopping centres filled with people rushing, pushing, bumping, focused on making their Christmas perfect. Around the corner are pictures of starry-eyed children singing Christmas carols. The television airs movies about love, and families. Everything seems geared up to tell those feeling they have not, how much they are missing out on.

If we are using this time to celebrate Christ’s birth: let’s get with it! Christmas is not about the ‘haves’, it’s a celebration for the ‘have-nots’. If we could transport ourselves to Jesus’ birth, what would we find? A poor family. A conservative society. The shame of an unwanted pregnancy. The prospect of being stoned to death. Whispers of illegitimacy that would haunt the child for life. A heavily pregnant girl enduring a long, bumpy journey on a donkey. Ending in that incredibly painful exercise called ‘giving birth’ – not at home, not even in hired lodgings, but in an uncomfortable cattle-shelter, in a strange town. So poor, so lonely, there was no bed to lay the tiny newborn – just a cattle-trough. Then suddenly turning into refugees fleeing a ruthless leader. Culminating, some thirty years later, in a torturous, humiliating death.

All for what?

In my humble opinion, so God could come for the have-nots.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the presents, food, and starry-eyed children – but they are so fleeting, and don’t make people immune to pain. We all nod wisely and agree that it’s not about the gifts. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Christmas is not even about family! Neither is it about getting together with like-minded folks. If God had decided to hang out only with agreeable heavenly beings, where would we all be?

What do we really need to celebrate Christmas?


8 Responses to “What’s the big deal about Christmas?”

  1. Great post. It really does question the very essence of today’s commercialized Christmas!

  2. Thanks! :-)

    BTW, just realised what your email address is… so evocative.

  3. Thank you for being ‘brave’ enough to post this view of Christmas. It’s refreshing!!

  4. Thankyou! 50% of my friends weren’t looking forward to Christmas. That is a huge percentage. Or maybe it’s just me and my friends! :-)

    By the way, I am slowly reading through your blog, and enjoying it!

  5. Awesome article! Thank you for challenging our tokenistic attitudes towards the “real reason for the season” and exposing our true expectations which are pinned on the buzz and symbols of the holiday.

  6. Thanks childofprussia!

    Yes, as humans, we tend to focus on the tokens rather than the reasons for those tokens. It’s a fine balancing act :-)

  7. Amen! Infact, after several “opulant” decades of Christmases, our family is going back to the basics of when we were all young and between Australia and America. We are now making each other a gift and “exchanging” them. Much easier to focus on what the season is all about.

  8. Thanks Carol! It sounds like your new family tradition very sensibly takes some of the pre-Christmas stress away.

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