Tuesday, November 08, 2005

How Do the Pagans Handle It?

Christmas is coming. I've seen the massive displays of fake trees, must-have toys and dancing Santas. I've already heard people talking about giving gifts that impress the recipient and about "wanting it all" in their stockings on Christmas morning. Already I'm feeling uncomfortable. I just hate the commercialism of the holiday. The religious nativity scene replaced by the secular Santa's castle and eight tiny reindeer. "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night" pushed aside for "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer". The celebration of the gift of Christ Incarnate ignored to celebrate the gift of bling. But I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Yet as I wandered through the maze of Halloween festivities just over a week ago, I was wondering how things got so commercial. I saw houses decorated in orange Halloween lights. I heard kids strategizing the best way to get the most candy. Spooks and spirits are friendly little critters made of cardboard. Inflatable pumpkins and black cats are anchored to stakes in the front yard of various houses. Somewhere along the line all the spookiness was sucked out of Halloween, and it has become a Celebration of Candy and Costumes. People still trick-or-treat, but it's very rare that I hear of anyone being "tricked" in the entire area. Sure, maybe an occasional yard with toilet paper-filled trees, but even that doesn't happen much. Outside of Devil's Night in Detroit, Halloween is pretty tame. And I wonder, how do the pagans handle it? After all, isn't it supposed to be their holiday?

It seems that we can individually pour whatever meaning we want into a celebration. Vain women can celebrate their 39th birthday repeatedly, hoping to stay young but not miss the chance for a party. Christmas can be about Christ, or for many the preference is to celebrate family or even simply materialism. Certainly those who focus on a tree stuffed with presents are missing out on the whole point of Christmas, but then again people have been missing the whole point of Christ for a couple of millenia.

Right now I'm in Thanksgiving mode. I watch characters on television talk about being thankful for what they have, but they never seem to actually do any thanking. To do so would cause too big of a strain on their rugged individualistic egos. Because aside from luck and circumstance, the person they are thanking is usually themselves. And how empty it is to thank oneself.

As we race through the rest of the holidays this year, it is so easy to be pulled away from the true meaning. Hey, I love a good Rankin-Bass Christmas special with the claymation animation as much as anybody. But missing the showing of Frosty the Snowman or The Year Without a Santa Claus is no big deal next to missing a celebration of God Incarnate coming to save the people from their sins. If the pagans can handle having Halloween go commercial, I think Christians should be able to handle the onslaught of Materialistic Christmas as well -- provided we do not lose our grip on its meaning and get lost in the current of wrapping paper and 50 percent off sales.

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