Christmas: What does it even mean anymore?

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Tinsel, presents, carols, mince pies, wrapping paper, baubles, the Queen’s speech and a delicious roast – Christmas has been and it has gone. Every year, when Christmas comes about, people often debate if this holiday has become too commercialised; whether it has it lost its meaning or not? The problem is most of us don’t know what exactly Christmas’ meaning is. By this, I don’t mean that people are unaware of its christian origin – the story of the nativity and the birth of Jesus Christ. Just, in reality, the majority of us do not pray, attend church and are not practicing Christians. Why then, in a increasing secular nation, is this ‘religious’ holiday so celebrated?

Christmas day is suppose to be a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. But let’s be completely honest, how many of us actually think of this on the day? Indeed, if you ask most children what Christmas is about, Santa Claus is more likely to be the answer than Jesus. Caught up in the mounds of wrapping paper and new toys, the commercial nature of Christmas has engulfed any spiritual or religious basis.

Has Christmas thus picked up a new basis and meaning? If you ask people what Christmas means and why they celebrate it, the answers are always vague values and shrugs. For example, many people consider it a time of family, goodwill and generosity -and reflecting on the past year. There’s no doubt that Christmas is a family event and works as a time for big families to get together. Yet, it seems odd that we live in a society which needs an commercial event for this to occur. Why don’t families just get together more often anyway? And why do they need presents to do so?

Goodwill and generosity are interesting reasons, but Christmas is ultimately selfish. You give presents to those you expect presents back from. You don’t give gifts to strangers or to charity. Indeed a family I know have a limit of £10 on present buying. One member suggested donating it to charity instead which was an idea immediately put down by others. Surely if Christmas is about goodwill, then such a idea would be applauded. This is indicative of the Christmas spirit that no longer exists; no one thinks of others, but only those you care about. Christmas shopping epitomises this; it isn’t an atmosphere of calm, happiness and “after you”, but stress, arguments over what to get and the rudeness of being smashed in the legs by shopping bags.

The public are made to feel bad about the economy struggling due to poor Christmas sales

The point is Christmas is all about material goods. The ‘Christmas economy’ starts in October, prospers in November and overdrives in December. It has fitted into the Western model of ‘want’ and consumerism. Material goods have replaced emotions. No one needs the newest gadget, perfume or DVD of a any comedian. And, by giving them to someone, you might be feeling you are showing that you care and love for them, but it seems a sad state of affairs where this is convened from presents and not through words and selfless actions.

Christmas is definitely over-commercialised – in fact, this has recently hit epic proportions where the public are made to feel bad about the economy struggling due to poor Christmas sales. Moreover, for most of us, its also an extremely secular celebration. But thats not where the problem lies: Christmas has lost all its meaning – it’s possible to have an event that is spiritual and good, but not religious – swallowed up by presents, Christmas specials and full bellies.

Let it be said here, I am no Scrooge figure. I like Christmas and am too am guilty of missing the point of it. Also, I’m not saying we should make it anything bigger or stop it. Christmas is a brilliant event that gets us through the dark and cold winter months, and a major celebration in the religious calendar for Christians. For most of us, however, we should stop pretending it has any greater meaning. In essence, you end up celebrating Christmas because, as one student put it, “everyone else does”.

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