If asked, how would you explain Christmas to someone who knew absolutely nothing about it? There are a few ways one could go about this. There’s the traditional Nativity route, with shepherds in the fields following the star of Bethlehem in the night, or you could mention Santa Clause at the North Pole with his elves and seven reindeer, or you might even begin with an explanation of the winter solstice and the time when the sun seems most scarce. Your answer would probably also include second chances and rejoicing, singing and awe, feasting and humbleness, as would the fixed cast of people typical during this time of the year. Fond memories collected over the years of your life would pour out the easiest: the smell of fresh pine while decorating the Christmas tree, the soft playing of Jingle Bells in the house, the quietness of the world covered in snow, and perhaps even a visit to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree if your in New York. Presumably, there would be a short insert about the significance of family and the power of a holiday that centres on children and whose emotions bring back childhood memories.
Ultimately, however, when it comes down to the nitty gritty details, one would also have to answer questions regarding how these beautiful emotions and memories are connected to the chaotic and hysteric commercial and media induced phenomena of the weeks leading up to Christmas. What does all the shopping and wrapping paper have to do with peace on earth? Ignoring this would be like ignoring a pink elephant in the room. What is important is not the disconnection between the majesty of the season and the superficial gift giving, but rather the fact that generally, none of those presents caught the sentiment we were searching for, didn’t shout what we wanted it to say.
Someone foreign to the concept of Christmas might further inquire, don’t you always hope for world peace? Must there really be a season for good will? Moreover, if you truly love one another, genuinely hold someone in your heart, why not simply say it instead of stressing about the perfect gift? Deep down however, most of us are thinking the same thing: that for all the racing and running in circles during the Christmas rush, for all the media-hyped superficiality at the end of the year and the beginning of the new one, this is most especially a holiday of spirit, a day of humility and sharing. What we want, on December 25th, is to feel the warmth of love and to believe that we live in a world that lives up to the honour and purity of that sentiment.