The Meaning of Christmas?

Now that Turkey Day and Black Friday have passed, it’s now time for the Christmas holidays (as if the decorations that we’ve seen at local stores since before Halloween haven’t already alerted us of the impending celebration).  For some of us (at least those of us whose academic calendars are divided into semesters), Christmas is a break, a time to recover from one semester and to prepare for the next.  For others (particularly those who work in the retail sector), the time between Black Friday and the end of the year is the busiest time of the year–sales before Christmas, and returns after Christmas (and end-of-the-year sales).    And, of course, some people view the upcoming holiday season as a time to worship, as the “twice a year” parishioners attend the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day church services.

But what is Christmas?  Is it a time for families to gather and celebrate the birth of Christ, or a time merely to exchange gifts and/or gift cards (and to see who really should have received the stocking full of coal but instead got a new video game)?  Is it a celebration that is offensive to non-Christians (and thus leads to the erection of billboards such as the one outside the Lincoln Tunnel:  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/11/27/atheist-groups-billboard-targets-closet-non-believers/)?  Has the true meaning of Christmas been lost and overly commercialized, or do people still understand why people celebrate Christmas?  What do you think?  Does anyone else see a problem with a place like Cracker Barrel selling milk glass Nativity scenes at a 25% discount on Black Friday?

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About Karen

History Professor. Baseball fan. Author of two books, one of which I force my students to buy and read. You want me on your Trivial Pursuit team.
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3 Responses to The Meaning of Christmas?

  1. Justin P says:

    I want to say that there are people who know what Christmas is supposed to mean and where it came from, but those people are far and few between. I think that regardless of what your religion is Christmas should have a meaning. So long as it is the slightest bit noble, how can I oppose it?

    If we look at Christmas as what it is now, Christmas is a time of giving. Giving does not directly imply spending money on others and competing to give your friends/children/family the largest or best present.

    Without being that obnoxious philosophical guy, I can just say that people should share their time with one another. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the birth of Christ or not, but taking at least one day in your life to show people that they mean something simply by your company can’t be wrong for its own sake. (You can put that in a card or something.)

    I can’t be angry at the Atheists for their sign. They are within their bounds to say these things. They are practicing their freedom of speech. God sees the sign too.

    Christmas is over commercialized, nativity scene cups are proof of this. Their mere existence has answered the question. I do hope that at least some parents teach their children what Christmas really is. I do not attend church, but I can tell you where the many of the cultural ideas came from. Christmas trees, stockings by the fireplace, and gifts, gifts, gifts!

    Either way, I hope the break is enjoyable for you. I work in that labor department, so it is merely a jump to another form of work. (One that I don’t have to take home with me.) I think I’ll still enjoy it.

  2. skat35 says:

    I also agree that it is highly commercialized or exploited for revenue or retail sales. But i believe it is a wonderful time of you no matter what your religion. A time of giving or giving back to fellow friend how have been there for you. Or remembering folks who have helped you on your life journey. My favorite part of the holidays, anyways. Also, reminiscing of all those wonderful christmas past and christmas traditions. But anything that some of mankind can find a way to exploit, is my understanding that some of us will do so. That billboard sign was awful. That should not be allowed on a freeway. Although i realize there is freedom of speech. But extreme atheism bothers me as much as extreme Muslim or extreme Christianity. It usually takes alot to upset me on religion. Due to the fact i am currently an agnostic. But i don’t go around spreading my beliefs around. I merely state my case, if folks ask me. Hope that there really is a God, beats the alternative. But, maybe i am a little odd with my beliefs. Some folks say. Anyway, i hope Christmas or Hanukkah will be here to stay . You will always have competitive folks who try and out do others. But hopefully, most of us as not to forget Jesus birth or my favorite part of Christmas: “spirit of brotherly love”. Good post here. And i like Justin’s response.

  3. skat35 says:

    As a non-christian. Christmas is in no way offensive to me. Of course, i used to be a Christian and perhaps that is why. But i feel like this billboard was done by hard core atheist organization. As a pantheist, we practice tolerance and this billboard seems offensive to Christians. I am not down with offending other religions. I would be upset if someone put up a billboard stating picking on my religion . Such as Panthesim=paginism or Panthesit = nature worshipers.

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