I was lucky to grow up amongst different nationalities as it gave me the opportunity to share in their celebrations and get an insight into their cultural backgrounds. While all the other cultures have a religious nucleus around which the celebrations revolve, I find this element distinctly missing from the Christmas of today.
A month before Christmas, the shops put up their Christmas lights, Santa Claus figures appear in the windows and department stores overflow with expensive gadgets to tempt the both young and the old. Food shelves in supermarkets are filled with Christmas puddings and mince pies. In fact, everything from wrapping papers and clothing to jewellery has some element of Christmas festivity attached to it. It all adds a colourful aspect to Christmas, but I don’t think anyone seems to remember the reason why Christmas is being celebrated as it is hardly even mentioned!
It is only schoolchildren participating in nativity plays who touch on the historical or religious reasons underlying Christmas. How much time do we adults take to pray or ponder over the teachings of Christ? There must be some Christians who spend time at their local Church during Christmas but for the majority of people the materialistic and commercial aspect of Christmas takes priority. I dread to think what each family must be spending at Christmas on decorations, trees, presents and clothes each year. As children are getting more streetwise, parents need to improve on gifts each year to keep up with the latest trends in fashion and gadgetry.
The religious significance of any festival or celebration should not be forgotten so that future generations can learn and carry on with these traditions. It is said that most Churches lie empty these days as no one wants to go there anymore. Maybe Christmas time is when festivities should be arranged in churches for people to participate in and make it a fun time to end the year with. Families should cook meals and bring them to church to share amongst people who are homeless and starving during this time. This will keep the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing alive. Instead of drinking themselves silly, time should be taken by adults to arrange competitions, fun events and group gatherings where the youth can participate with the older members of society.
It is just a thought, but I cannot imagine what Jesus would make of Christmas celebrations in Western countries today. In these times of recession, there should be a reality check as the only people benefiting from Christmas are the credit card and store card companies who are exploiting people through the highest interest rates ever. Maybe it is time to get rid of the extravagance and open the door to simplicity, spirituality, charity and family bonding, some of the intrinsic values that would make the end of each passing year meaningful and special.