In Praise of the American Christmas

Right after thanksgiving, Americans are often torn between two contrasting sentiments.  The first is "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year", where one abandons oneself to the pent-up desires to play Christmas music and decorate the tree while drinking egg nog.  The other is disgust and often complaining about the rush and distractions of the uber-busy and psychotic consumerism embodied in violent mega-store incidents at 2am on black friday.

And yes, there are things amiss in the way Americans generally celebrate Christmas.  But I would like to take a moment to celebrate the vision of Christmas that most Americans hold, because I personally find it wonderful and even wonder-filling.

Ask anyone to name five things associated with Christmas and you could easily get five different things.  Name twenty Christmas songs?  Easily.  American Christmas is amazingly multi-dimensional, considering that it's traditions are relatively short-lived (compared to European counterparts, that is).

Christmas is, of course, foremost the celebration of Christ's coming, but it is also a celebration of gifts.  Family.  Generosity.  Parties.  Lights.  Winter.  The passing of another year.  Music.  And food:  Cookies of scores of holiday varieties.  Egg Nog. Custard.  Cocoa.  All things flavored with nutmeg.

Can all these things distract from our understanding and contemplation of the incarnation of Christ?  They can, but I am not convinced that they must.  Because I think that all these things are the traditions, the fabric, the stuff of celebration.  They can create the picture frame for the image of the incarnation, reminding that this really is the same old story whose importance and wonder makes it worth telling over and over again, year after year.

All the unique caroling melodies, color combinations, pine smells, peppermint flavors, and lighted homes come out just one a year to add to the thickness of our celebration, just as the winter season itself calls for an increase in layers.

The diverse visions of American Christmas go on and on.  The Currier and Ives and Norman Rockwell.  The 1950's Coca Cola Santa Pictures.  Jimmy Stewart and Bedford Falls.  Clay-mation Rudolph.  Bing Crosby and his crowd of crooners in the ski lodges.  The Peanuts gang sliding around on the ice with their too-short legs.  All of these are some kind of ideal, and probably none of them have really existed.  But they fill our imaginations and we watch their movies and put together jigsaw puzzles which bear their diverse images.

Thus, if you ask me, I would say, that if all these things bring you joy, embrace it as the joy of your celebration of the birth of Christ, as disparate as it may seem.  The milieu of the American Christmas can be a blessing, and it's our own and others' expectations that will run us over,  not your favorite snack or your favorite movie.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. All good is derivative of the greatest Good. I love Christmastime!

Uttz Family said...


Timothy said...

Well said! A great description of the joys and fun memories of Christmas past and future! If we miss it because of the stress and hassles, it is our own fault-- it doesn't have to be that way! The choice is ours! Merry Christmas every one! Tim