Evaluating Christmas

Anyone else having a Christmas problem?

I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.

Charlie Brown, you are the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy is right. Of all of the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Brownest.

-Charlie and Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas

It came to me the other day that my Christmas problem is a simple one.  My approach to the season is based on custom, not any type of underlying logic.

Christmas comes, we go through the motions, and then it moves on.

But what are our goals here?

The meaning we get from the holiday season relies almost entirely on our expectations and the context within which we live.  Maybe we just need the right goal.

Christmas is about money.

For some people and businesses, Christmas is a prime commercial opportunity. No matter how many TV Christmas specials try to counter this theme, we live in a time where decorations start going up in storefront windows around halloween.

And not because the shopping centers are just full of the holiday spirit.

Christmas is about making a political statement.

Until recently, wishing merriment around Christmas was mostly just a kind thing to do.

Happy Holidays, the thing we say when we don’t know whether the person we are talking to celebrates Christmas, is seen as a counter argument to Merry Christmas.  Making every greeting a political statement.

Christmas is about spending time with family.

For many of us, the holidays are about spending time together with your small family, big family, extended family, or family of friends.  Depending on who you are, and the family you celebrate with, this could be a hugely positive thing or one filled with obligation and dread.  And maybe it’s both.

Christmas is about giving.

Whether it’s gifts, money, or time, Christmas is a season that puts people in a giving mood.  Yes, if you so choose, Christmas can totally be about presents.

Christmas is about Jesus.

I grew up Catholic.  And I know plenty of people in the “keep Christ in Christmas,” camp.  For them, the holiday is first and foremost about the birth of Jesus.  And if you don’t share Christmas beliefs, you should not be celebrating.

But historically Christmas is a melting pot holiday.  It’s an amalgamation of  groups of traditions derived from people of different faiths and celebrated around the winter solstice.  Our celebration is shaped as much from the Germanic Yuletide and Roman Saturnalia as it is from the Christian faith.

For me, tying Christmas so rigidly to a single faith limits the potential good that can come from the holiday.  Christmas is so ingrained in American culture that people of all faiths end up putting up a tree, giving gifts, and gathering together on the holiday.  Is that really so bad?

What are your goals?

How do you plan to evaluate your Christmas?


  1. Joyce Morris on December 25, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Saying Happy Holidays is not a political statement; it is a sign of respect for those who may not celebrate Christmas as well as acknowledgement that there is more than one holiday celebrated at this time of year. If your goal is for everyone to be Christian, then it is not bad for people of other faiths to put up trees, etc. However, if you respect those of other religions then you will not expect them to adopt the rituals of your religion. It also dilutes Christmas for Christians. As evaluators we say we respect diversity but then expect everyone to act like a Christian. I do think this is bad.

    • Brandi on January 1, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      I respectfully disagree with the assertion that non-Christians participating in traditionally Christian activities would “dilute” Christmas. Respecting diversity doesn’t mean that no one can cross an imaginary line to share in festivities that are not labeled specifically for them.