Is it just me or did Christmas not really come round this year? Every year of my life until now, I’ve been overtaken by the festive spirit for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and Christmas day itself felt magical, almost other-worldly. It felt like time froze for 24 hours: all was right in the world for at least one day in the year. But this year I just didn’t feel it.
What is the “true” meaning of Christmas anyways? We’re told it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, however originally the 25th of December was the feast of Winter Solstice (when the days start getting longer again after winter). Furthermore, the true date of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Christmas was first celebrated on the 25th of December in Rome in 336 AD, during the reign of Emperor Constantine. In 350 AD Pope Julius I declared the 25th of December as the new official “Christmas day”. So the real cause for celebration on this day is debatable.
The UK is historically a Christian nation, so has celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In our culture, we have treated Christmas as a time for self-reflection and to take greater heed of Jesus’ teachings. The most important commandments, according to him, were to 1) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) and 2) “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The latter encompasses the former: before loving God, I’ve got to love my neighbour. At Christmas, we ought to practise this more than ever.
The vast majority of movies, TV shows and adverts tell us it’s about coming together within the family; it’s a family affair. While I greatly appreciate the time spent intimately as a family at Christmas, I find it doesn’t fully encompass the more profound yuletide message. Jesus taught that we are all part of one big family under God. Christmas, therefore, is a time of goodwill to our broader human family.
I came across one news article that really touched me on Christmas day. It spoke of several people across the UK who sacrificed spending Christmas with their loved ones to volunteer at homeless shelters, care homes, or even train stations:
While holding a Christmas dinner for those in need won’t exactly solve the homelessness problem in the UK, it’s a deeply moving gesture that demonstrates the goodness in people, in a world where we are so often desensitised to the warm, kind-hearted nature of man by tragic events and injustice. If this story illustrates anything, it’s that Christmas isn’t just for the family; it’s for all.
Despite this, I still struggled to really “feel it” this year. Most likely I was put off by the unapologetic over-commercialisation. The Christmas songs started blasting out from the start of November at my workplace, and I couldn’t count how many Black Forest Hot Chocolates or Billionaire’s Latte Frostinos I’ve had to make. From all the over-the-top ads to the endless “Last-chance sales”, it all felt a bit forced. It’s not that I despise the gift-giving or the excessive Christmas foods; I love the occassional mince pie and have fond childhood memories of receiving Lego sets and video games for Christmas. I know that much of the retail sector is driven by sales at this time of year. Nevertheless, I fear we’ve lost touch of its original intention. We ought to be more mindful of the deeper meaning of Christmas.
Christmas isn’t just for the family, it’s for all.
Perhaps most importantly, kindness and goodwill aren’t just for Christmas, they’re for life.
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