By Jack Chitos ‘22
Whether it is because of the grandiose decorations, festive music, or merry spirit, Christmas is one of our most cherished holidays. During this season, we get together with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Christ. However, in recent years, the meaning of why we are celebrating has been lost.
The first Christmas celebrations began during the third century in Rome. Observed simultaneously with the pagan festival of the winter solstice, this important Christian celebration quickly grew in popularity and tradition.
Today, however, popular culture has placed higher value on the more secular aspects of Christmas; we emphasize the spirit of giving and the beauty of winter, but we forget the holiday’s original, religious purpose.
A 2017 report from Pew Research Center stated that only 51% of American families intended to attend Christmas Mass that year. The dwindling number of those attending Mass demonstrates the trend regarding the celebration of Christmas: Americans are rapidly neglecting the religious meaning of the holiday, and instead focusing on its secular traditions.
Furthermore, each winter as you walk through New York City’s Rockefeller Center, one of our nation’s greatest and most historic Christmas locations, you see magnificent decorations, cheerful songs, and decorations of Santa and his little elves—but no images of Jesus. There is no manger scene and no singing of religious Christmas songs.
This secular shift in Christmas can be seen in our gift-giving celebrations as well: while our desire to give gifts is certainly admirable, we often worry too much about shopping and the monetary value of our gifts, while forgetting the spirit of love and sacrifice for others, which Christ communicates and embodies.
In 2 Corinthians, the Lord tells us, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We should not worry about what we give, when we give it, or how much it costs; instead, we should give happily and lovingly, always remembering Jesus’ gift to us at the Cross.
In response to society’s neglect of the true meaning of Christmas, we often see and hear the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas” in our churches, on car bumpers, and online. The phrase holds especially true in our culture today: we must seek to revive Christmas’ true meaning as the celebration of the birth of Jesus. In order to do so, we all need to do our part.
One way that we can emphasize Jesus this Christmas is by setting up Christ-themed decorations, as opposed to only adorning our homes and yards with images of Santa, reindeer, and mistletoe. Additionally, we can (and should) perform acts of service for others in the spirit of Christmas.
Most importantly, we need to keep Jesus in our hearts and minds: reflecting on the Gospel, praying incessantly, and always living our lives inspired by the fire of Christ’s love. Our acts of love, giving, and sacrifice in the name of Christ is what Christmas is truly about.