Thursday, 29 December 2011

Whatever Happened To Christmas?

Having journeyed back to my hometown to spend the festive period with my family I have got to thinking as to the state of Christmas in present day. I talk not of the religious aspect of the holiday (the actual birth date of Christ has been much discussed) but of the human aspect; the feelings that the holiday engenders.
I’m sure we are all aware that the holiday has been vastly over-commercialised with the lead up to the day itself beginning as soon as the first of September but  I don’t know about you but this certainly is a major overdose and by the time Christmas week hits I am virtually Christmas-ed out.
This year, for the first time in a long age, I actually felt ‘festive’ and was greatly looking forward to December 25th. By the time it came around, however, it felt as though my mind had already moved forward in time to beyond Christmas.
Over the years, as ever, I have hoped for that same feeling that I experienced in my youth when Christmas was a time to be cherished and savoured, a time when the extended family, neighbours and friends would visit to celebrate with the inevitable parties and I still recall the food and drink that would be available. The spirit of Christmas was in attendance. Not so in recent years: Whilst I still enjoy the time with the family that sense of celebration and joviality is lacking and the closeness enjoyed by the family and friends is somewhat shattered. No doubt this is inevitable for as time passes people move away, new people enter our lives and death claims some of those close to us. What once was can never be again but surely we can recapture the essence of what we once had?
Or is it too late? Has society, and its attitude to Christmas, altered so much that those halcyon days longed for are simply a dream that can only ever be fondly remembered?
Beyond the day itself we are also seeing it become a precursor to the commercial sales which have moved, throughout my lifetime, from starting in January to Boxing Day. How quickly Christmas is forgotten once the day has arrived. Such realisation get me to thinking about the proposed return of the messiah; that the return would be at a time when the important lessons once learned and re-taught have once more been forgotten or abandoned. For a believer is this not the time? Certainly the ‘season of good will’ is dead. After all, a day cannot be called a ‘season’ now, can it?
But never mind my own personal experience and desire - social media reflects the modern attitude; one where ungrateful children tweet about their lack of an I-phone as a present and where the thought behind a gift is not the important thing. Is this not as far from the ‘meaning of Christmas’ as we have yet gotten? It saddens me that material gain has become so prevalent in our western culture that it overrides any sense of selflessness and charity at the one time of the year when they should be most prevalent. But there are European cultures that still treasure Christmas in a more traditional way, retaining the long held meanings. I can only hope that the future sees a return to the best of Christmas and what it can bring out in my fellow man. I also hope that when, eventually, I am settled I am able to go about celebrating Christmas in a way that reflects my memories with someone with whom I can build new memories and traditions whilst sharing those of old.

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