What is Christmas? If you pose this question to people, you will definitely receive different answers. To office workers, it means bonus and 13th month pay. To children, it is the time of receiving gifts from parents. To teachers, it’s a break from work. To businessmen, it is the season of sales and more sales.
To most people, however, Christmas is the time of eating, drinking, and merry-making. "For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home," said W.J. Ronald Tucker.
"Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts," Joan Winmill Brown commented. "No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given-when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes."
Christmas is the time of giving and receiving gifts. Carolyn Wells shares, "I love the Christmas-tide, and yet, I notice this, each year I live; I always like the gifts I get, but how I love the gifts I give!"
George Matthew Adams was right then when he said, "Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years."
Most children, however, equate Christmas with Santa Claus. In fact, one child wrote New York Times if Santa Claus is for real. Francis P. Church answered, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus."
This brings us to this anecdote. Just before Christmas, an honest politician, a generous lawyer and Santa Claus all got into the elevator at a famous hotel in Manila. As the elevator traveled from the 5th floor down to the ground level, one-by-one they noticed a 1,000-peso bill note lying on the elevator’s floor.
Which one picked up the 1,000-peso bill, and handed it in at reception? Answer: Santa of course, the other two don’t actually exist!
Kidding aside, Christmas is more than all the observations. Perhaps the words of Robert Lynd should be a reminder: "There are some people who want to throw their arms round you simply because it is Christmas. There are other people who want to strangle you simply because it is Christmas."
In recent years, Christmas has been hugely commercialized. Comedian Dave Barry has given us a glimpse of it when he admitted, "Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space."
But Christmas should be a season of love and giving, of peace and understanding. "Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven’s making." That statement comes from the mouth of Leigh Hunt.
However, the observation of Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol, is more apt. He wrote: "I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
While Christmas is the time for celebration, there are times when you feel something is wrong and you don’t know why. As Kate L. Bosher commented, "Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for – I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times." Carol Nelson has another view: "Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home."
"Ang Disyembre ko ay malungkot, pagkat miss kita." I recalled this line of a popular Filipino song, Miss Kita Kung Christmas, some years back while spending my Christmas in the United States. Although I was with my sister and her family, I still felt lonely since I missed celebrating Christmas in the Philippines.
We should celebrate Christmas not only this season but throughout the years. As Norman Wesley Brooks puts it: "Christmas is forever, not for just one day, for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf. The good you do for others is good you do yourself."
May peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through.