Right before Christmas my eleven year daughter announced that it didn’t feel like Christmas, that something was off this year. It wasn’t the lack of snow and cold that usually accompany Christmas into town like a welcome friend; there were plenty of both in the air. It was something far less tangible, but nevertheless equally as vital in order for Christmas to have real meaning.
Perhaps it’s the War in Iraq that seems to drag on without end, despite the far too rosy gloss applied by the Bush administration; or perhaps the perpetual death cloud that hangs over the place and threatens to cover the entire world with its stench; or perhaps it’s the unending downward spiral of the African sub-continent as its people struggle to enter the 21st-century alive. Or perhaps it’s the lingering, festering problems here at home; the widening morass in New Orleans where everything seems to spark an argument and the leadership vacuum continues to vex; or perhaps it’s the feeling that America is heading in the wrong direction under the quasi-leadership of a man without a clue; or perhaps it was the Religious Rights’ insistence that everyone in the country celebrate Christmas their way by bring pointless lawsuitsand boycotts against those who dared declare Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
Or perhaps it’s a combination of all of these factors that left me and mine with a feeling that Christmas 2005 was just another day; the spirit of the day had been leached off little-by-little until there was nothing left to celebrate. The reason for the season was immaterial, lost in an ever increase deluge of violence, whining, bad behavior, and bad feelings. And let’s not forget the endless store sales and sales number that have little to do with the birth of Christ, but have supplanted him as the reason to celebrate Christmas.
When I was a child Christmas was a magical period despite the fact that we had very little, and got very little on Christmas day. The whole month of December was filled with the stuff of Christmas; finding the right tree and decorating it; watching the Christmas; watching the same Christmas cartoons year after year, hoping for the first snow to come in time for the holidays; and the excitement of Christmas Eve. These were all part of growing up in America as a child; not anymore. Trees are increasingly artificial (including mine), the cartoons are all but gone, and so are the special feelings…
It is true that few adults find magic in Christmas anymore, but up until this year, I did look forward to the holiday (somewhat). But this past year, even my wife who loves Christmas, was glad to see it come and go its un-merry way. Has America with its now incessant infighting and bickering over the smallest of topics and myopic pursuit of money and material over all other pursuits, finally succeeded in killing Christmas? Has it become just another day off, yet another excuse to shop? Will the magic ever return, will it ever be a Merry Christmas again? What would Jesus think?