What is the real meaning of Christmas?
Some people would say it’s celebrating the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year the way ancient pagan cultures used to.
Others would say it’s keeping the legacy going of Saint Nicholas a 4th century bishop who "had a reputation for secret gift giving", particularly coins in shoes left out. (Hanging stockings anyone?)
And there are many would argue that it’s the birth (or at least celebrating the birth in human form) of a god named Jesus Christ who will allegedly redeem the world from sin and wickedness someday.
And if you bring Hanukkah and Kwanzaa into the mix, it can get really confusing.
Throw in commercialization and the push to buy big, extravagant gifts and max out your credit cards and you have quite the hodge podge of expectations to live up to during the (often) most frigid time of the year.
But the fact is, Christmas or the Winter Holidays or whatever you want to call the month of December is for some reason when most people start focusing on generosity towards loved ones and strangers alike and reconnect with those they may only contact once a year.
I suggest that Christmas is not about god, a made-over Catholic bishop, or anything mythical or supernatural. (What is with all the bearded men anyway?)
It’s about rekindling our priorities towards our loved ones near and far, and extending that love to our larger human family. It’s about putting aside human differences, foibles and petty arguments and acknowledging that we are all part of the pleasure and pain that is life. The struggle to self discovery, the search of life’s meaning and the hope for happiness and love.
It’s when much of the earth is forced to take a break from growth and expansion and with temperatures dropping to sometimes freezing temperatures and availability of food and shelter depleted, we humans are reminded in very real, tangible ways that the cycles of existence include death of all living things and we should value and appreciate them while we can.
That is a very worthy thing to celebrate. A highly relatable concept that all of humanity can agree with and embrace.
There is no centerpiece to this celebration. No pine tree to decorate. No special candles to light. No Santa figure to take pictures with at the malls or gilded figurines adorn our mantles with. No nativity scene or crosses to erect and worship.
It’s much more basic than that. Much less fancy and maybe to some less appealing. Because at that point, it’s not just about buying cool electronics, expensive jewelry or gift cards for those nearest and dearest to you. It’s not about singing songs of praise to an invisible god who will hopefully someday accomplish all the impossibly Utopian things that we mortals are incapable of. It’s not about repaying a debt of gratitude to a super natural force so it will allow the sun to restore warmth and food supplies to the planet.
It's about meeting the most basic of human needs. Food. Warmth. Shelter. Purpose. Kindness. Decency. Dignity.
It’s about remembering that all humans are part of one large intertwined family and none of us can survive or be happy, if we are deprived of contact, and purpose within that family.
As pack animals, we all have a role in making this family world function. We come from different continents. We have different languages, different cultural expectations, and different government regulations. I am not placing a case for a “One World” leadership.
I am only saying that this month is an opportunity to celebrate humanity: our goodness, our generosity, our universal craving to be loved, accepted and needed. And that, should be the real meaning of Christmas. We just need a new name for it.