So, at the age of 10 months, you may have noticed a great deal of unusual activity recently. Your parents have probably been spending more time in stores. When they come home, they wrap colored paper around what they bought.
“What’s up with that?” you may ask.
In your first visit to New York City you probably were wondering why your mother and father took you to see a big tree full of colored lights. And you probably have noticed that your neighborhood also has a lot of these same colored lights around. And you may have seen some people wearing a lot of red, particularly fat men with big white beards.
“What’s the story, grandpa?” you may ask.
OK, here’s the skinny. It’s called “Christmas” and it comes every year at this time. It’s sort of a big deal, particularly for kids like you because — and you better sit down for this — it’s a day that people give you lots of neat stuff to play with and to eat. They even ask you to make a list of what you want and then — and here’s the best part — they get it for you!!
And you know all that colored paper — you get to rip it off and you get to play with it and the box too. You may even want to play with what’s inside. (Although this year it’s probably gonna be mostly things to keep you warm through your first winter in Vermont.)
Now you may be thinking, what’s so special about this Christmas day that makes people act so strangely?
Well, it started out as a celebration to mark the day a really nice man named Jesus Christ was born a really long time ago. It’s called a birthday. You’ll get your own celebration in a couple of months. We’ll call yours “Brycemass” if you want. Anyway, people liked this guy so much that when he was born, strangers traveled great distances to bring him presents. And we continue that tradition today. Only now we give presents to each other. Neat, huh?
Well if getting stuff from your mom and dad and your grandparents, aunts and uncles wasn’t good enough, there’s someone else who brings things to you at Christmas. He lives up at the North Pole. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. Maybe he likes snow. Anyway, this guy is old and fat and always dresses in a red and white suit. His name is Nicholas but everyone calls him Santa Claus. He has a bunch of reindeer and a sled and every Christmas he packs it up with all the toys that boys and girls want and he delivers them while you’re asleep — sort of like the UPS man only without having to sign anything.
But just like the NSA, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. He has a database of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. You have to be on the “nice” list to get presents. Word is that you can get presents even if you’re naughty sometimes, just as long as you’re mostly nice. Santa knows that no one’s perfect.
It’s an imperfect world and so people sometimes act naughty. But the thing about Christmas is that people make an effort to be nice. They’re not always successful, but most people try. That’s what really makes Christmas special.
About 50 years ago, when I was a kid, people were worrying about how people had forgotten why we celebrate Christmas and instead were focused on buying things. So a wise doctor named Seuss gave us a story about a Grinch who found out that people could celebrate Christmas without “things.” And an artist named Schulz gave us a story about some kids who get so wrapped up in decorations and Christmas plays that they forget the reason for the season. A boy named Linus reminded them.
Well if Christmas was too much about “things” 50 years ago, the years since have only given us more of the same. We now start “celebrating” Christmas beginning in October. We have a shopping day after Thanksgiving that is so crazy they call it “Black Friday.” What’s worse, storekeepers have come to rely on people buying stuff to excess in the last three months of the year as part of their business plans, and the media makes it almost un-American and certainly anti-capitalist to resist this command to buy.
But we can resist the urge to make Christmas about “things” and I hope that you will. Oh, I know how great it is to get new toys, and you will certainly have your share in the Christmases ahead. But always remember the lesson that Linus and the Grinch tried to teach us many years ago. The spirit of Christmas is not in the decorations, the presents, the trees or even the songs. It is in what you can do at Christmas and every day to assure that there is “peace on earth and good will to all men.”