As I understand it, the crux of Christmas is giving and sharing. Isn’t that nice? It is — and a lot of people would do well to remember these sentimental verbs as they traverse the financially frightening hustle and bustle of this holiday season.
Festivals of old celebrated the return of longer days and shorter nights with community meals and fellowship. Nowadays we regard these traditions as quaint, reserving them for the poorest and most unfortunate among us. As more of us become poorer and more unfortunate with each passing foreclosure, tradition might be the escape valve we need.
Those who might suffer for lack of what they used to have are the people who used Christmas to compete with their neighbors (although, if I know the male psyche, the competition will revolve around who has it worse), those whose rituals revolved solely around gifts, and those who upped the ante with each passing year by making things ever more extravagant.
The Grinch had it right when he said, even before his heart grew three sizes, “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!” Indeed it did, and always has. It also came without credit. It came without banks. It came without financing, savings, or angst.
While the hungry and homeless are a modern-day focus, it’s worth giving a bit of thought to what else is needed after we’ve dressed, eaten, and found a place to sleep. Such was the intent behind Christ’s birth, the story of St. Nicholas (regardless of whether you believe these are stories of fact or fiction) and the Yule: everyone contributes. Not most to the rest, but rather everyone to each other.
We’ve buried the concept of giving under heaps of commercialism and political correctness to the point that no one seems to remember how it all started, but what lies beneath has not rotted away. It’s waiting to be found in much the same way and for much the same reason we squeal with delight (even if just on the inside) to see our stockings full and things poking out the top.