What is Christmas? Seriously, with all the commercialization and hype its understandable why the Grinch’s complaint is “…All the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! They’ll bang on tong-tinglers, blow their foo-flounders, they’ll crash on jang-jinglers, and bounce on boing-bounders!” The “hustle and bustle” can be exciting and at the same time overwhelming. What’s it all for? Who is Santa Claus, and why is he watching me when I sleep?
The history is this: Santa Claus is a derivative of Sinter Klaas, which is the Dutch derivation of St. Nicholas. So that’s why we can look at Santa and say “Good Ol’ St. Nick”. This St. Nicholas is the patron Saint of Russia. He actually lived in what is now Turkey in the third century. He is known as the protector of children and sailors, and several legends are told about his practice of giving gifts and saving sailors. Somewhere in Europe several centuries ago, St. Nicholas/Santa Claus was co-opted into Christmas as a sort of mascot for the feast day of The Nativity. The purpose was to remind Christians of God’s gift of the Christ Child, and it was also a re-enactment of the wise men giving Jesus precious gifts. So when we give each other gifts, it’s a prompt to acknowledge Christ, or Emmanuel – God with us.
From the industrial age until today, Santa Claus and Christmas has increasingly been expropriated as a Christian holiday by commercialism. Now Santa Claus is holding a Coca-Cola and led on his gift dispensing mission by Rudolph, a character developed by a merchant in the 1930s to bring more traffic to his store. So eventually, the focus of Christmas shifted from the giver to the gift – a material rather than spiritual festival. So this is Christmas.
Or is it? I know that many people focus beyond the “noise, noise, NOISE!” to honor the spirit of the holiday. There are many among us who take the opportunity to bless others during this time: cards are sent, cookies given to neighbors, we gather with friends and family, we remember those less fortunate and take joy and merriment to them as well. In this manner, like the Whos in Whoville, we make Christmas come without packages, boxes or bags because Christmas doesn’t come from a store.
In the hustle and chaos, though it is a cliché, try to remember the reason for the season. As a person, couple or family, make your Christmas traditions more about people and less about things or to-do lists. Focus on being present with those around you, because quite possibly you will be the gift they remember the most this Christmas.
I’ll conclude with some quotes by Charles Dickens:
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.”
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
“God bless us, every one!”