Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Day Five 2014

Fiiiiive Gooolden Riiiiiinnngs!

There are a lot of complaints about the commercialization of Christmas. I've lodged my share. I just barely participate in it myself these days.

I watch the few children in my life and I remember the giddiness of Christmas and the hope of what we might get from Santa. Figuring out that Santa shopped at Sears, their annual Wish Book catalog was left around the house, open to pertinent pages.

Christmas was such a mixed thing for me. I got some things I wanted, of course. Other things were close to what I wanted, but the off-brand version (never got a Six Million Dollar Man action figure, but had some dollar store action figure that had a name I no longer remember). Then there was the year that my parents apparently were busy and did all the Christmas shopping at the local John Deere dealership at the last minute. They had a line of toys, all modeled after the latest in tractor and other farming equipment. Granted, we played with those for years afterward, but in the moment I was somewhat crushed. These were not at all what I wanted for Christmas.

My Facebook friends list is diverse enough that I have friends who had rather privileged childhoods and speak fondly of Christmas memories and also friends who speak of "that one Christmas" when they had a gift. Singular.

If there was ever a holiday to highlight class differences, it's the secular Christmas. Rooted in the story of the Wise Men, I get it and even kind of like the idea, but that it becomes a thing that creates such starkly different childhoods among kids in the same city seems unfortunate. At best.

As noted above, I have participated in this holiday's most commercial side and there's a part of me that doesn't mind the commercial side, and I even wish I had the means to participate in it more fully. But I am of many minds about this. The Christmas Eve service at my church has become the important Christmas observance for me, but all around me, I see this other piece of the observance, the excitement over products and their accumulation. I feel outside of it and yet swimming in it, disdaining it yet wishing to participate more fully in it.

Someone today posted on Facebook that the five gold rings in the popular carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," were ring-necked pheasants, a reasonable theory given all the other birds in the first half of the song. Googling about the web, I find this theory is out there and there is also some disputing it. The earliest illustrated version of the song, in a children's book, shows jewelry, but that was still a few centuries after the earliest recorded version of the song. Who knows what the first singers meant, the first listeners understood?

And so we come to a favorite theme of mine, I suppose. Without this becoming about "the reason for the season," for there are quite possibly a number of reasons for the season we now call Christmas, I'm always mindful of how meanings change over time. Within my lifetime, personally, Christmas has become less about gifts and much more about "midnight mass"---something I knew nothing about in my rural Texas Lutheran childhood. Historically, we don't have much in the way of evidence that Christmas was even observed before the 4th Century. What did it mean then? Gift giving was a part of the pagan winter festival of Saturnalia, so just how much does gift-giving have to do with the Matthean story of Wise Men anyway?

Another friend posted on Facebook about the need for capitalism to be tempered with humility and empathy and civility (actually the friend of a friend's words---I might have chose another three or more words, but these work for me). I think these are words to hold close when thinking about things like gold and Christmas and gifts and commercialization the "reason for the season."

This was intended to be a quick paragraph or two. Well, I often say this blog is the unedited me, and my free-association got the better of me, as it often does. Here at the almost halfway point, I hope your Christmas season is joyful, and that any happiness comed from something deeper than material possession. I also hope you maybe get a little something you wanted for Christmas, too.

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