Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image

The Meaning of Christmas (according to me)

I’m no preacher, no sage, no Linus Van Pelt; but like most westerners enduring the commercialized chaos of Christmas, I occasionally find myself thinking about what the season might really mean. When I do think about it, here’s where my thinking leads: The meaning of Christmas, like the meaning of life, has to be invented, not discovered, by each seeker after truth. It’s not sitting there blinking at us like a Christmas tree. It’s not sitting there at all. It’s whatever we decide.

I’ve decided that for me, the multifarious meanings of Christmas include some or all of the following:

Giving and receiving can be equally pleasurable, but only if both acts are committed in good faith, without any expectations of gain or loss.

Certain color and light combinations are very therapeutic, in small doses. (Holiday decorations lasting more than a month are contraindicated.)

Something about this time of year makes us think even more about peace, and its terrible absence in our world today. Thinking about it is, and should be, beautiful and uncomfortable. John and Yoko said that better than I ever could.

Especially for children, presence is more valuable than presents. (I stole this from someone’s Facebook status.)

If you eliminate all the noise and clutter (malls, stress, drunken office parties, etc.), Christmas can be a time of quiet joy. Or it can be a day like any other, which might also be good.

Most people over the age of 12 seriously underestimate the element of surprise.

Some Christmas symbols that we consider timeless icons were actually concocted by individual human brains, and in some cases revised after one or more false starts. For example, Tiny Tim was originally named Tiny Fred until Dickens changed it. Therefore, we should be skeptical about sanctifying any yuletide trope, and willing to come up with something better when necessary. For example, we could transform Tiny Tim again, from a pathetic, sugarcoated little wretch into a rebellious tyke who grows up to become a pioneer disability-rights advocate. (Maybe he could reclaim his original name. We’ll call him Fierce Fred.)

Speaking of Christmas and cripples, what’s up with Mr. Potter? Really, capitalism has not done that much for disabled people, so why make a wheelchair user into the ultimate evil capitalist? On the other hand, good ol’ George Bailey’s hearing loss is a result of his selfless nature, and a symbol of the positive impact he’s had on the world. When he regains the hearing in one ear, it’s an anti-miracle of his never having existed, never saving his brother from drowning, who in turn wasn’t around to save a boatload of sailors. Sure, it’s cornball stuff, but who doesn’t love thinking that we all matter?

Whether ultimately we do matter or not, here we are. We might as well light candles, sing songs, feast together, stuff some stockings, have some fun, be nice to each other.

And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.

One Comment

  1. Nancy von Borstel says:

    I love your perspective. It’s so true.

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