What Christmas Means To Me
I love Christmas – I love the serious, spiritual symbolism and the cheesy, crassly commercial chintz. I’ll take it all, secular and profane, theological and nonsensical. Perhaps most of all, I love that, as the Beach Boys so blatantly put it, “Christmas comes this time each year.” With such an open ended love of the […]
I love Christmas – I love the serious, spiritual symbolism and the cheesy, crassly commercial chintz. I’ll take it all, secular and profane, theological and nonsensical. Perhaps most of all, I love that, as the Beach Boys so blatantly put it, “Christmas comes this time each year.”
With such an open ended love of the season, you can imagine that Christmas means many things to me. First of all, Christmas means the absence of ambiguity.
I travel a lot, move countries every few years, adapt to different cultures and am constantly making new friends and networks. That’s a life filled with ambiguity and uncertainty. So I relish the fact that, once a year, every year, I don’t have to improvise and adapt – I know the script and can just go with the flow.
So give me the food, the music, the gifts and the decorations. I’ll gladly have another slice of Pan de Pasqua (Chilean Christmas cake) or an extra Mince pie. I won’t fight over whether Christmas hymns or secular Xmas ballads are better. I’ll merrily put an extra gift under the tree and accept any old thing wrapped in shiny paper. And, I’ll joyfully put a candle, stocking or ornament in every room of the house if you let me.
However, not every Christmas bring merry memories. I’ve known plenty of sadness at Christmas time. I once had a martial engagement break down in the days before Christmas. Another year I faced a quarrel that ended a long term friendship. Moreover, there have been a few family tragedies as well.
But, rather than harden my heart towards the season, those tough years have encouraged me to love Christmas all the more. Perhaps that’s because alongside the lack of ambiguity, Christmas also reminds me of the value of truth. This season seems to go best alongside people who are honest; with others and with themselves. Perhaps it is the crazy contradictions of the season that can encourage us to face the contradictions within ourselves.
Of course, at the heart of Christmas is a story; a child in a manger, a promise to the world, a God who often seems so distant embodied on earth in the most humble of circumstances. It’s a story that at other times of the year and, over the years as we age, becomes harder to tell, as faith and doubt intermingle in ever more poetically abstract ways.
Maybe that’s why I love being around straight talkers at this time of year (regardless of their religious convictions) – the salt of the earth types who tell it like it is and would never be caught dead talking out of the side of their mouth. There are so many lies and untruths in the world, but more corrosively, there are so many half-truths and manipulations that we become desensitised to the way reality is distorted all around us. Christmas is so magical, so all encompassing, so out there, that it makes any other tall tale seem weak and feeble by comparison.
Maybe that’s why life seems clearer at Christmastime. As if a different light reveals the edges of things more cleanly. It’s not quite peace on earth, but it’s certainly a piece of the nearest thing I can compare to true wisdom.
I like to joke that it has to do with the candlelight and the shorter winter days. Maybe that’s part of it. But, it’s probably more to do with the way the world draws in on itself and we find ourselves either in the company of the ones we most love or pining to be close to them.
Because if we can’t let love be honest and unambiguous at least once a year, then we truly are lost.