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Thread: What is Christmas to you?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    What is Christmas to you?

    As I was leaving church last night, I overheard someone ask a very interesting question to a teenager, "What does Christmas mean to you?" It was a bit surprising as yesterday was the 1st Sunday of Advent and we were in a Catholic Church. But as I was driving home, I was thinking about how some big box stores that don’t even use that term. Instead they go with the generic “Happy Holiday” theme. I also thought about how some people are all geared up to get a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and make cookies, yet pay little attention to the deeper meanings. The typical symbols of Christmas either don’t or have lost their association with the birth of Jesus and while not quire registered trademarks, they have taken on a whole new meaning of their own.

    In today’s culture and society, it is a difficult question to answer, but I think it is worth thinking about.

    What is Christmas to you?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I also thought about how some people are all geared up to get a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and make cookies, yet pay little attention to the deeper meanings. The typical symbols of Christmas either don’t or have lost their association with the birth of Jesus and while not quire registered trademarks, they have taken on a whole new meaning of their own.

    What is Christmas to you?
    First, a personal note, that as an agnostic Christmas doesn't mean anything to me except a time of year when people want me to do things I don't want to do...

    That said, the majority of Christmas symbols never had a thing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ... even the date.

    Mistletoe and holly - Druids
    Christmas tree - Germanic tribes and Egyptians
    Poinsettias - Mexican
    Candles and lights - Romans

    Just to name a few.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Three words:

    Nonstop annoying music.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I like Christmas in that it's a time you get off from work and are able to spend it with family.

    I have to say though, the significance of many holidays has decreased for me as I get older (and bitter perhaps?) and I see how arbitrary many of these holidays actually are. Like I understand the religious significance of Christmas but the date is derived from some pagan holiday and it has more or less been hijacked by commercial interests. Admittedly that applies to most holidays.

    I don't know but I'm starting to feel that the meaning of holidays should be carried throughout the year and not just saved for a few arbitrary days. I'll gladly take the time off though!

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tarf View post
    Three words:

    Nonstop annoying music.
    Now that is sacrilege.... I start in late October with the music...

    For me there are really two levels -

    1. The season. I don't mind the music, the consumerism, or the stores getting already for people to spend inane amounts of money. Personally, I like it. I like the spirit of the season. Even if it has become comsumerized, it still is something that is different from the labor day door busters. The fact that it can be celebrated by everyone even if they don't have the same religious beliefs is also a plus. The season is for everyone, get in the spirit, and share the joy.

    2. Family. Christmas is always at the end of the year, which makes you reflect on the blessings you have been given for the year. Even if you aren't a religious person, it forces you to realize you are starting another year and gives you a minute to reflect on the past year. I know I get many Christmas cards with recaps of the year from all over the country. I like the family, friends, and reflection portion of Christmas as well. I think you can replace this with your religious beliefs, but for me, those go hand in hand with my family.


    ps. I love Christmas.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    To me Christmas means family and consumerism. I like the family part.

    It's interesting though how Christmas has been changed and co-opted by various groups through the years. The one single thing that seems to have stayed in place is the family aspect. Christmas was initially not a religious thing at all - and then became co-opted by Christianity even though the actual date of Jesus' birth according to most scholars is sometime between May and July. Then over the last 30 years Christmas has been co-opted by retailers, such that the biggest aspect of Christmas is now consumerism.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Christmas is the time I get to see the biggest smiles on my daughters' faces.

    I do like the music and the lights.

    Perhaps the biggest thing, is the build-up of anticipations. You can almost feel it as you get closer to the 25th.

    There are absolutely no religious undertones for me.

    Oh yeah....food.

    I think that's about it.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Though not my favorite holiday, I have started to become more excited about Christmas as I get a bit older.

    I have always loved Christmas trees. My family for many years practiced purchasing live trees that my father and I would dutifully tend to until spring and plant in our backyard. Many of these trees are still growing back there. As a kid, there was nothing more exciting than picking out those trees, decorating them, and then going through the winter long ritual of tending to it, planting it, and watching it grow through the summer.

    Now that the kids are all out of the house, my parents still buy a tree, but it is pre-cut tree. I am hoping to one day pass on the tradition my father and I created. I think that is my favorite thing about the holiday—tradition. Hanging lights. Eating my mom's Christmas bread. Listening to Elvis' Blue Christmas album. The rest is all icing on the cake. MW and I purchase a new ornament together every year. Once we have our own place, I'd like to start the tree ritual again.

    ______
    Edit: Like btrage, there are no religious undertones associated with the holiday in my family. Neither of my parents are Christian, nor are any of the children. My mom would actually use the occasion to educate us about how all the symbols people associate with Christmas actually come from other cultures (as Mastiff pointed out) which Christianity incorporated into the religion to more easily convert people. She did for every holiday.
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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    This pretty much sums it up for me....http://www.jennifermcgrail.com/2011/...-letter-words/

    I'd say we were faithful than religious not ascribing to one particular denomination or religion. Tolerance, acceptance, love, and respect are our core tenets. I enjoy the season as a way to slow it down, find ways to reconnect with people, and reflect upon the past year.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  10. #10
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    To me Christmas is about tradition and time with family. I'm not sure if those are good things or not.

    This is my daughter's second Christmas (she is nearly 16 months) and I think she's still a bit young to understand what is going on so there's no real excitement there... although she did keep looking at our Christmas trees in bewilderment when we put them up yesterday. And I'm sort of thankful that she's not walking yet because it seems like it's slightly easier to keep her from pulling the trees down. Of course, with my luck, she'll figure out the walking thing just in time to do so.

    My wife and I are pretty good at avoiding the consumerism of the holidays since we set really low spending limits on each other. We are pretty well set financially and could afford to spend more lavishly, but there's nothing we need and nothing we really want so we'd rather just spend our resources elsewhere. It amazes me when I hear about the gifts that friends in our age group give to each other. I know that once our daughter is a bit older, it is going to be a challenge to continue our frugal ways since I know I will want to spoil her, but we will definitely try.

    As far as the "Happy Holidays" v "Merry Christmas" debate, the "Happy Holidays" doesn't bother me. I know quite a few Jews, Hindus, and Muslims and if you are working in retail, I cannot see why you would want your clerks excluding folks who may not be celebrants of Christmas. Just about every religion, even the pagans (PAGANs?), has some sort of observance or significant holiday this time of year, so "Happy Holidays" seems to make sense in most situations.


    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    Edit: Like btrage, there are no religious undertones associated with the holiday in my family. Neither of my parents are Christian, nor are any of the children. My mom would actually use the occasion to educate us about how all the symbols people associate with Christmas actually come from other cultures (as Mastiff pointed out) which Christianity incorporated into the religion to more easily convert people. She did for every holiday.
    I remember when I was little, maybe 6 or so, and was at church for some evening event and was looking at the Christmas tree and all of the ornaments were various symbols that are now generally associated with Christmas or Christianity and I was asking the priest about each of them, in the annoying "What's that? And what's that? And that one? How about that one? What's that?" way that only a 6-year-old can and he took the time to explain each of them to me and where they came from originally. It amazed me how many were incorporated from Pagan symbolism or how many came from the ancient Greeks.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Togetherness with family.
    Travel to either coast for me and all the related stories of the journey.

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    project - working on the house or putting together toys.
    celebration - Mom' early 70th birthday dinner at The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
    shear joy - 2 yr old nephew playing in a box of shipping peanuts
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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Growing up, Christmas was a family-centered holiday. We did not go to any church, though I guess we were Christians. Mainly, though, it was the typical consumerist binge. My fonder memories are of decorating the tree together as a family and some of the morning-of traditions like my mom’s sweet rolls, lounging in PJs all day and other small but memorable things.

    Flash forward to present day. My wife is Jewish and so that presents another wrinkle to the whole affair. I am not religious one way or the other, so its not as if I am competing with Judaism and so I have not really pushed the issue (and I don’t really care so much anyway). Personally, I am not so attached to the Christmas thing and I am actually adamantly anti-consumerist in my personal view (and, by extension, for my kids. I am sure they will talk about this on someone’s couch someday) My wife shares the anti-stuff-for-stuff’s-sake attitude toward our society so our main battle is trying to keep the kids from getting worked up into too much of a frenzy.

    We have 2 kids, 6 and 11, so they are fully aware that other kids get a lot more crap for X-mas than they do. We do the Hannukah thing, but its just not the same (its not a High Holy Day and persists in its American form mainly as a foil to Christmas). Most gifts are practical – look, another pair of socks! – and the emphasis is not really on the stuff anyway. Still, my relatives do send X-mas gifts and so we save those for the day of and open them. So, its not like the kids are deprived of anything. They just don’t get as much stuff, which I applaud.

    We have not had a tree in 14 years, though I have been threatening something this year. I’m not so fond of putting up a dead tree only to dispose of it a month later, but we do have some land that needs some thinning, so we might poach one from there this time. I like the lights and decorating is fun, too.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  13. #13
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Growing up, Christmas was a family-centered holiday. We did not go to any church, though I guess we were Christians. Mainly, though, it was the typical consumerist binge. My fonder memories are of decorating the tree together as a family and some of the morning-of traditions like my mom’s sweet rolls, lounging in PJs all day and other small but memorable things.
    ...
    My family was the same way. My brothers and I were spoiled rotten on Christmas. The amount of gifts we would receive individually is quite astounding, then there were the "family" gifts—pinball machines, trampolines, bikes, etc. It was really fun as a child, but I do not plan to participate in Christmas the same way when I have children. For all those parents out there who worry because they cannot give many gifts to their kids, don't worry. As grown ups, we appreciate the family time more than anything anyway.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Christmas means to me we celebrate the birth of Santa. I hate Christmas...the music, the rampant consumerism, the faux concerned for others, lying to children about Santa and lack of awareness of why people celebrate. I don't buy the secular holiday line. Once people secularize Ramadan and Yom Kippur then I might change my mind. . As someone who goes to church 20 or so weeks a year from August to early February...and mass is held on a couch or bar I do not celebrate any religious holiday so I see no reason to celebrate Christmas.

    I have no problem with Happy Holidays since the "Christmas Season" starts before Halloween. To me Happy Holidays means Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas or its non Christian equivalent and Happy New Year all rolled into one.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  15. #15
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    Christmas means to me we celebrate the birth of Santa. I hate Christmas...the music, the rampant consumerism, the faux concerned for others, lying to children about Santa and lack of awareness of why people celebrate. I don't buy the secular holiday line.
    This made me laugh. I feel the same way up until Christmas Eve, then I like Christmas again. I get sick of all of the ridiculous gift exchanging, it always gets to be too much. It's the same kind of nuisance as wedding invites, so I can't see how people enjoy putting themselves through all that stress. I love getting people gifts when I'm on vacation or as an unexpected surprise. I hate having to fight through crowds of people for Christmas shopping.

    Oh well, it's an opportunity to see my family, so despite all that I still really like Christmas...
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Growing up, Christmas was a family-centered holiday. We did not go to any church, though I guess we were Christians. Mainly, though, it was the typical consumerist binge. My fonder memories are of decorating the tree together as a family and some of the morning-of traditions like my mom’s sweet rolls, lounging in PJs all day and other small but memorable things.
    My upbringing was not too much different than that. I think I can count the number of times that we went to church for Christmas on one hand.

    I agree, that there are a ton of symbols that are now associated with Christmas that either came from other religions or traditions. We also have the Advent Wreath with the candles, the angel on the top of the tree, the bells on the tree, and even the gifts to each other symbolize the gifts that the wise men brought to the birth of Jesus.

    It has only been over the past decade or so that I have been able to connect the biblical aspects of Christmas, as I did not become Catholic until my final year of College. But the more that I explore my faith, the more the true meaning becomes important to me. As it is, the entire season, (well into January) is becoming less and less about the commercialism and presents, but more about faith.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Christmas is for kids, that's where the good memories are. After that you have live it through your children or grand-children. Except, I do enjoy watching the Muppets version of Dicken's Christmas Carol every year.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    It's the lights, the trees, the food! And the tradition. I love putting up the tree and decorating it, and stringing up the outside lights, and decorating the inside of the house, and using the X-mas china. I love hunkering down on the couch on a chilly night and watching the same X-mas specials I've watched since childhood. I like hanging my kid's school-made ornaments on the tree, as well as 60-y.o. ornaments I "rescued" when my Mom moved a couple years before she died. I like making the same dishes my mom made for the holidays. RJ and the kid are not so enamoured of these rituals, but they put up with it.

    We do not spend a fortune on gifts. There are no big t.v.'s, leather jackets, big appliances, computers, etc. It's more the hunt for the little special things that will make someone smile, or something goofy but fun. My dad used to always tell me yeah, they spoiled us kids, but his biggest pleasure at Christmas was making Mom happy. So I guess that stuck with me. I want RJ and the kid to be surprised and pleased.

    We do not go to church. I have never gone to X-mas Eve services or X-mas day services. My parents went with my brother and his wife for a few years after he first married her, and she is one of those people who only go on major holidays, so I figure she's a hypocrite, and I told them "Not on your life." I was the one travelling from out of town and there was no way I was walking in the door at 10 p.m. after a full day of work and going to church (which I'd gotten out of when I was 13 or so).

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    The only gifts i've given for quite awhile are things I cook myself. The whole "Buy a bunch of schlock gifts with my rent money that people will mostly have to figure out how to warehouse" thing just makes me a bit ill.

    Mostly, it meant going and having dinner with family. Then it became having dinner with SOME family, because people drifted. Now i'm in a different city that nobody I ever knew is anywhere remotely near. And i'm the one who has to do all the cooking. So it's basically starting to look like "Me, cooking dinner for my wife". And I do that most days out of the year already. So what's to celebrate?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    • Chance to reconnect with my S-wearing friends who play big brass horns outside of retailers
    • TUBACHRISTMAS (yes, I coordinate the local one)
    • Time to put away the autumn leaf-print clothing (worn for two minutes) and bring out the tacky sweaters (just got a new one with winter hats and mittens, no idolatry or bad symbolism)
    • Two weeks after my birthday
    • January 6 starts the Mardi Gras season!

    This year I should be able to pull off not having to buy a single gift. So far I have avoided the crowds, despite needing some essentials (toothpaste and kitty litter).

    Elena Kagan, in relation to a question about the Christmas Day Bomber, “where were you on Christmas day?” Responded Kagan, to a deserved round of applause: “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    The only gifts i've given for quite awhile are things I cook myself. The whole "Buy a bunch of schlock gifts with my rent money that people will mostly have to figure out how to warehouse" thing just makes me a bit ill.

    Mostly, it meant going and having dinner with family. Then it became having dinner with SOME family, because people drifted. Now i'm in a different city that nobody I ever knew is anywhere remotely near. And i'm the one who has to do all the cooking. So it's basically starting to look like "Me, cooking dinner for my wife". And I do that most days out of the year already. So what's to celebrate?
    Hey, it doesn't have to be schlock gifts (are you from NY? NJ? Just saying, the use of the word "schlock". I know what it means, just not used to typing it....). Hell, hand the wife a cookbook and tell her to pick a dish she is going to make, light some cheap candles,and have a little fun. You could probably get a few inexpensive food treats, deeply discounted books at any major chain, etc, for under $20 for 4-5 gifts, and just have an amusing exchange. You sound like you're kinda jaded. But X-mas doesn't have to be expensive, of course. Sounds like you just need your spouse to pitch in.

    BTw,and this may not apply to you, I went thru 15 yrs living "out of town" with full expectations from the family that I would pitch in just like I still lived there,and that just didn't work,and made for some hard feelings.... but at some point, you have to devise your own family traditions.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    To me, Christmas is:
    Spending time with family and spending time at home.
    Going out with old friends.
    Holiday parties with friends and co-workers.
    Christmas cookies and other home-baked goods.
    Putting up and enjoying festive Christmas decorations. Especially the Christmas trees.
    Christmas music. Especially the classics and the modern classics.
    Christmas movies. Every year, I have to watch Home Alone 1 & 2, Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and Holiday Inn. Polar Express and the Santa Clause are optional.
    Christmas books. The Polar Express and Twas the Night Before Christmas are some of my favorites. But there's also plenty of others I always remember as soon as they're brought out for the season.
    Celebrating the birth of Jesus. While for many years, my family didn't go to church on Christmas Eve, we went last year and have gone sporadically on other occasions and I really enjoy the candlelight service. I hope to do it again and again. Even if I can't, I do try to reflect on the "reason for the season".
    Shopping and gift-giving. This isn't as important to me as much, as I could care less about the gifts...I just enjoy seeing my family. But it is fun when you're able to find that special item for a family member. And with two nephews (age 2 and 3) now, it is a lot of fun shopping for them and watching them open their gifts and joining in the fun.
    Lights. I really enjoy the lights this time of year. I even enjoy still putting them up for my parents at their house. I also enjoy the indoor lights as well. With it being so dark this time of year, the lights definitely make things more bright, festive, and warm and home-y. My family used to drive around and look at Christmas lights in various neighborhoods. A couple years ago, my then-GF and I resurrected the tradition. It's definitely fun to check out the different displays and also maybe explore some streets not often traveled.
    Food and drink. I love all the food and drink this time of year...from the various parties and cookie baking, to the time spent at home or out on the town, there's always plenty to be had.
    Snow. I definitely enjoy a white Christmas. It's not fun when it impedes on traveling to and from holiday parties or work, but if I'm at home with nothing better to do, I love a good snowfall. I love taking a walk outside after a fresh snowfall. Also fun to play in it with the dog.
    Reflection. Reflection on the year. Reflection on my life. Reflection on life in general. Being grateful for the blessings in my life.
    Goodwill towards others. Although I always try to do this througout the year.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  23. #23
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    I hate Christmas...
    Ditto. Although I am trying real hard to be more tolerant than in past years. Shoppers gotta spend cause I am paid with sales tax receipts. Personally, I won't be buying anything.

  24. #24
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    Off-topic:
    Not Christmas, but I think the coolest religious tradition is on Oct. 4th, or the Blessing of the Animals, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. I just happened to be walking my dog past the Catholic church and saw the line of people with their animals. It was really fun to watch. I think it might be the only one this old agnostic might participate in again...
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  25. #25
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    For me Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus and what that represents. How that it is one of God's many gifts to us. It is a time of reflection and thanksgiving. Before anyone jumps my case, I know about the replacing a pagan holiday and that He was actually born during another time of year. I also know that some of the symbols derived from the pagans. Sorry, that doesn't change my mind about what the season is about. I really try to ignore all the commercial stuff that has diluted the message.

    It also means cookies, cookies and more cookies.
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