by Mike Pyatt
Christmas 2017, is on the books. The National Retailers Association bragged about a record Christmas, both in brick and mortar, and online sales. Economic optimism and President Trump’s turbo charged economy appear to be the drivers behind that report. Consumer Reports said millions are still hamstrung with credit card debt from Christmas of 2016, and they spent 3% more this year. Myths about Christmas persist. Scoffer, naysayer, and scrooge carped after discovering another lump of coal in their stocking. Prince, president or royalty gain no greater joy than paupers. Some have cast unwarranted blame at the Christmas season and attendant festivities for a spike in suicide. According to Psychology Today, the suicide rate peaks in the springtime, not wintertime. Certainly not at Christmas. To the contrary, most people with suicidal thoughts find some degree of insulation from such perverted thoughts by the proximity of their family, relatives or friends at Christmas time, and the prospect, of “things getting better from here on.” A legitimate springboard for hope.
Those who fathom the true meaning of Christmas find renewed hope in the day. Those who’ve missed that meaning are more likely to be glad its over. It appears that holidays precipitate depression for some, whose focus is solely inward, as Christmas reminds them of days gone bye. However, there’s no correlation to suicide and depression at Christmas. Immediate and extended family provide a hedge from suicide. Around the country rescue missions and shelters offer hope to a broad range of individuals and families, for many who had no family connection, or who’ve severed relationships with friends and family, found themselves at a crossroad in life-homeless and alone. Christmas is a valuable teaching moment for parents, an others, if they get it right-the Birth of a Savior, the intrinsic value of family, and substantial motivation for placing others interest above one’s own.
Those who love Christmas are encouraged that President Trump has reinvigorated the traditional greeting, “Merry Christmas.” He admitted that signing the new Tax Bill into law, was his “Christmas gift,” to the nation, to stimulate our economy, and a renewed sense of optimism for many Americans who felt forgotten. This past Christmas it was once again haute couture in the public square.
FDR’s Presidential address to the nation on December 24, 1944, reminded Americans, though they were at war, “Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way-because the teachings of Christ are fundamental to our lives; and we want our younger generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will.” Every president since reminded the Nation of the significance of this “Day of Days,” and that we’re responsible for transferring this tradition to a generation we’ll never see. Many fear we’ve done a dismal job in this realm.
A recent Pew Research Poll indicated that nearly 90% of the adult population planned to celebrate Christmas in 2017, and a majority polled still believed in the Virgin Birth. Pagans must’ve been in short supply that day. How does one reconcile the majority celebrating Christmas with an increasing secular view of the holiday? There’s a wide range of post-Christmas commentary. Some chose to ignore it. A small minority found it irksome. Perhaps they were duped by the commercialization, glitz, and ensuing “buyer’s remorse.” Some’ve grown more bellicose toward Christmas. The majority plaintively opined, “If only the spirit of Christmas lasted all year long!” Is that possible? What about the night after Christmas? Where does it go? Does it go back into the boxes with the decorations in the attic? Or up the chimney with the smoke? Does it vanish ethereally until next year?
Can one summarily dismiss the most compelling story in history and not experience long-term existential consequences? It’s true, Christmas has jumped the banks from Christianity, where pagan and believer celebrate the day. For those who mordantly repine that Christmas is compulsory, wholly commercial-humbug-they’ve already missed any blessing. Unfortunately, the enormity of the event foretold by Isaiah more than 700 years before Christ’s birth, has been largely subordinated by crass commercialization of our time. However, that doesn’t invalidate the truth one iota. Whether the commercialization and glitz has escalated over time, the majesty of Christmas needn’t expire on December 26th. As we rush headlong into the New Year, and beyond, reflecting on what Christ’s birth signifies, provides existential context for the rest of the year, and beyond.
Long after the gift exchange, pageantry, and buyer’s remorse has faded into one’s memory, where does Christmas go? Is it a matter of the heart? Whether it’s Wyoming or Wall Street, one’s grasp of the meaning of Christmas past is inextricably linked to this year’s calendar of events. Looking back, it’s a stark reminder that Christmas is much more than a day. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org