the true meaning…

I guess I’m of the school of thought that says things don’t have inherent meaning, beauty, or purpose; we find them ourselves. (Likewise, things don’t have inherent meaninglessness, ugliness or pointlessness.) But so much about the way we think is transmitted socially, we can take that for granted.

Our society obviously attaches a very large accumulation of ideas and traditions to Christmas. It’s an important marker of the year, with far-reaching effects even for those who don’t celebrate it. Sometimes the reach is too much — “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” comes over the speakers while it’s still 75 degrees out; big hardware stores dedicate acres of space to trees and lights and inflatable Santas in mid-October; the whole economy rearranges itself.

I’m not feeling the wonder as much this year — partially because we’re staying home rather than visiting family as we often do, I expect — but I really don’t want to be too cynical. I do enjoy some of the decoration — when it doesn’t take the form of suburban homeowners competing for the brightest display or the largest number of inflatable light-up Santas. The lights at the plaza where my office building is — strung expertly in the trees, suspended above the plaza, and in the Christmas tree — are a lovely contrast with the dark early morning sky.

Some of my favorite childhood Christmas memories were of simply sitting next to the decorated, lighted tree, gazing at it in reverie. Not thinking of Jesus or of gifts so much as the… specialness, I guess, of the season. The feeling of people united in celebration, making something of this particular time. Hanging up some lights to change a dreary scene into a colorful glowing fantastical one. Interrupting the normal everyday flow of things in small ways or big ones.

So while I don’t think Christmas needs to take up three or four months every year, and particularly not with endless covers of 80 year old children’s songs, way too much artificial pine scent, hordes of shoppers not demonstrating peace and goodwill as everyone gets in everyone else’s way, and a little too much of the mandatory about things… I do wish our culture had more actual celebration. More holidays that count. More whimsy, more reminders that love and charity should be commonplace. More color and light. (But not too much light pollution…)

Whatever you celebrate, I hope for happiness and peace for you and yours. And the same during all the rest of the year.