Last year, scientists conducted MRI scans on a group of test subjects to see if they could detect the origin of the Christmas spirit; it wasn’t a very serious study. It does, however, raise an interesting question: Why do we do it? Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali… it seems as though every culture has their own seasonal celebration of the victory of right over wrong, light over darkness and life over death. Where do these concepts even come from? And why do we identify with the cause of right?
Even the Scrooges among us (and within us), with their ‘Bah Humbug’ attitudes find themselves criticizing the hypocrisy, the vacuousness and blatant commercialism. It is as though these things offend a sense of the profound goodness of Christmas within them, and not that they would dispense with joy altogether.
The celebration of togetherness and goodness that underlies all the tinsel, junk food and noise, is something distinctively human. What other creature gets together with its parents and grandparents, cousins and siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces and determines to be kind to them, regardless of past histories, even if only once a year? And if that’s not enough, the kindness spills over to affect neighbors, complete strangers, even enemies.
It’s unifying to look someone in the eye and say “Merry Christmas.” It’s an unspoken acknowledgement that the other person has a family, a dream, a future and a desire for peace and joy, just as you do. It’s a declaration that you wish them the same success with these things that you want for yourself. No amount of tinsel and pageantry can ruin that.
My Christmas List
This year, Santa Claus doesn’t have to bring me anything. The presents, the jokes, and the games are all just a pretense. When we see our loved ones with joy on their faces, it brings us joy. When we see an old, dear friend after a long absence, we laugh and joke, but the jokes aren’t particularly funny. They are just a way to release the joy and happiness without seeming mentally unstable.
I don’t know if any kid ever believed in Santa Claus, anywhere. I never met one who did. We all pretended because it was fun to pretend, especially when it involved the grown-ups. In fact most things were more fun when the grown-ups joined in. When they brought their superior strength or intellect or experience to our Lilliputian world, we couldn’t be happier, no matter what we were doing.
When we look back on the truly good experiences of our childhood, are they experiences of things, or of people? I can’t remember most of the Christmas presents that I received as a child. I know where they are now, gone the way of all merchandise, but I don’t remember what they were. On the other hand, I remember my parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors. I remember games, water fights and push cart races.
It’s Not Hard to Give
It’s not hard to give to your own children, because indirectly you are giving to yourself. Even giving to friends and relatives isn’t hard, because they will give to you in return. I think Christmas is a time for going beyond that, and giving just because it’s good to give. For me, this festive season is going to be all about the people who matter, and that’s everybody. Every person matters to somebody; we all want what is good for our own, even if we disagree on where it comes from. We all celebrate in our own way, the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and death over life; and we all identify with the good. Merry Christmas.