The Ghost of Christmas Past

It is challenging to write about Christmas without giving in to clichés or nostalgia.  It is a unique holiday rooted in religion but mostly driven by commercialism.  Last year I wrote about the so-called ‘war on Christmas’ and tried to make the case that the notion of that phenomenon  far outweighed any reality – at least as much as I am able to determine. 

People are always going to romanticize the Christmas season. It seems to be a constant no matter how much our experience may change.  The common refrain is that Christmas isn’t what it used to be, but I would argue that it doesn’t stand a chance when pitted against rose coloured memories.  That’s because it’s way too easy to recall past holiday seasons in a snow-globe fashion where no external factors actually come into play.  The problem with that type of thinking is that it ignores the fact that it isn’t just Christmas that’s changed , we have too.

For most people idyllic Christmases will be those recalled from their youth.   Of course Christmas is more magical in one’s youth.  Young people don’t have half the concerns an adult does.  What ten year old is worried about day to day items like paying the bills or bigger challenges like finding work?  When we are young we are only becoming self-aware and, while some young people do have to face bigger challenges than most, in general those are care-free years.

Next we should consider the industry of Christmas.  How many holiday movies or records heap praise on a stressful life?  I am sure the answer is precious few.  Instead, these are the source of most of the clichés that we use to compare our current Christmas experiences against.  When judged that way, the comparison isn’t fair.  Add to that the sheer number of Christmas themed ‘entertainment’ made with limited heart, talent, or imagination and it is all too easy to become ‘Christmased out.’

Still, if we are going to level our gaze on one particular element of a modern Christmas that is threatening the special meaning of the day, it must be focussed on rampant commercialism.  It is on this front that incremental changes have snowballed.  In recent years we have seen Black Friday make its way from the United States to Canada.  Stores blast Christmas Carols in early November before we have marked Remembrance Day.   Most of all we are bombarded with advertising that reinforces the message that this is the time of year to spend – a message that equates giving of oneself as something that is done through purchase and not action.  While we may know in our hearts that this is not the truth, it can be a battle to maintain that train of thought consistently throughout the season.

That said, bring on the rose coloured glasses and raise a glass of cheer.  The most important thing to remember is that Christmas, like so much else in life, is what you make it.  If you feel that the commercialism and the industry of Christmas is not working for you, look past it and on to some part of your experience that makes you thankful.  By concentrating on the positives you stand a better chance of enjoying what you do have and sharing that enjoyment and thankfulness will help maintain much of what actually is great about Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!