Friday, December 14, 2012

A Charles Shultz Christmas

I didn’t understand years ago, but now I see that Charles Shultz was right. The man who created the comic strip “Peanuts” came to the same conclusion that I have except he got there a good 50 years before me. His complaint? Christmas is getting too commercial. My complaint? Christmas is way beyond commercial.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas, the religious holiday. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is fine by me. To me, Easter is the true top Christian holiday, but Christmas is nice too. I like the time leading up to Christmas, especially the celebration of Advent. But let’s be honest here… there is nothing religious about stringing up multi-colored lights and hanging up stockings. A minority of the American people celebrate Christmas the religious holiday. The majority celebrate the commercial Christmas. Santa Claus and presents. Maxed-out credit cards and Black Friday sales. We’re getting to the point where Black Friday may soon begin right after the Labor Day picnic. Those things are trappings of the commercial Christmas.
Now, I don’t fault anyone for celebrating the commercial Christmas. The wealth of purchases is good for our economy. The gathering of families for a holiday is heartwarming. Sharing the magic of Santa Claus with a small child can bring a tear to your eye. And I’d never turn down a ride in a one-horse open sleigh. If that’s your idea of Christmas, good for you. But please don’t confuse it with the religious Christmas.
The songs of religious Christmas are hymns, carols that are usually saved until the week before Christmas. There are plenty of other Christmas songs — commercial Christmas songs — but the Holy Family did not rock around the Christmas tree just outside the stable, alright? There were no decked halls, and Grandma didn’t need to worry about being run over by speeding reindeer while walking home that first Christmas Eve. Go ahead and sing them. (Well, maybe you could skip that stupid Grandma getting run over by a reindeer song!)
When I was a kid, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas was a little confusing for me as some of the characters talked about Christmas being too commercial. Was that some movement in the 60s that I was too young to appreciate or understand? Is Snoopy’s doghouse covered in lights and decorations some sort of betrayal of Christmas? All these thoughts would run through my head. Then I would promptly put them out of my head and continue with making my Christmas plans. After all, commercial Christmas means presents for kids, right?
As I got older, I noticed some things I didn’t like about Christmas. For instance, we became so engrossed by Christmas traditions that not everyone even knew what the traditions meant. I mean, who cuts down a tree and puts it up in the house and thinks that means the birth of the Christ Child? Some of us went to the trouble to find out why trees were some of the first decorations for Christmas and got some meaning from it. The rest just ruined the vacuum sweeping up pine needles. But after a while, the traditions can tend to overshadow the meanings.
Buying Christmas presents used to harken back to the gift of a baby given by God. For many today it is about getting presents and getting your shopping done, saving 50-75 percent along the way. I shook my head sadly last month when I saw someone who had noted that only in America can we have a holiday to be thankful for what we have, then with the smell of that dinner still on our breath, wait in line at a department store to elbow someone in the jaw so we can get the last big screen TV at a doorbuster price. So much for thankfulness.
I don’t begrudge anyone his Santa or Rudolph or Abominable Snow Monster. Feel free to sing Jingle Bell Rock and White Christmas and weep when Frosty the Snowman melts. That is fine. You can celebrate the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus, or ignore the holidays entirely. However I also invite you join me in celebrating Christmas — the religious Christmas. Even if your doghouse is covered in Christmas lights.