Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Questions

As we prepare for Christmas, I've had a lot of questions come to mind.  Perhaps this is not the best place to pose them, but perhaps it is.  Maybe it's "group thought", maybe it's just me, but I'm actually feeling a lot Bah Humbug over the traditions we instill in our children.  I enjoy setting up our tree, decorating, and seeing lights that others display on their homes.  But when it turns to gift-giving, I'm feeling a bit unsure of what to do with my thoughts.  Perhaps someone could offer some advice, or answers to these questions.

(Happy Ranahanakwanzmas?  photo source)
Is God happy with how we celebrate the birth of the Son?
Is going into debt to make sure everyone receives a suitable gift, or something they want, appropriate?
Is more than three gifts excessive?
Why do we give gifts?
Why do we make cookies?
Why do we yearn for snow on Christmas morning?
Why do we fight whether or not our communities or schools allow us to celebrate, or not?  Does that prohibit us from worshiping how we please?
Why do we sing about Santa?
Why do we talk about Santa?
Where did Santa come from, and why did the idea stick?
Why do we celebrate Christmas in December, if most of us believe Christ was born in the springtime?
Why do we worry about sticking to what mainstream society teaches us?
Is it all about tradition?

In the Book of Mormon, there are many verses which warn us of doing things because of tradition.  The Lamanites sinned not necessarily because they thought it best, but because they were taught to do so by their "fathers".  Stealing, plundering, and hating the Nephites was done because that's how it was always done, and perpetuating it was socially acceptable.  Looking back at my BYU years, I find it interesting that one of the first devotionals I attended was based on "tradition", with the BYU performers redoing Fiddler on the Roof.  Traditions of "lighting the Y", attending football games (even if you didn't like football), Homecoming, attending devotionals, etc., were all encouraged as part of being a "good" student.  The song "Tradition" was celebrated, and ended up being a recurring theme through those college years.  Here at Christmastime, when Christians everywhere say we're celebrating the birth of the Savior, I wonder, are we really?

(Tevya, from Fiddler on the Roof, photo source)
So again, is God happy with how we celebrate the birth of the Son?
Is going into debt to keep up with traditions wise?
Is more than three gifts in keeping with the pattern set?
Why do we give gifts, really?
What have cookies to do with Jesus?
What does snow have to do with Christmas?  Or classic movies, for that matter?
Does it matter if our communities let us celebrate?
What does Santa have anything to do with it?  Should we move celebrating Christ's birth to April, and just let Santa have his own day?
Does it matter?

(The Wise Men, by Minerva Teichert)

When reading in Alma this past week, I was struck that much of the story of Christ, when retold by Amulek, began with the story of Adam and Eve.  I wonder how our first mortal parents celebrated Christ's birth.  Did they celebrate in anticipation?  Did those who were waiting in the Americas, who received the prophecies years before his birth, celebrate the season, knowing it was just years away?  Could they feel the excitement of what lay ahead?  And what of the Wise Men?  What was going through their minds and hearts?

I'm trying to catch the Christmas spirit, but somehow it just feels all wrong.  I'm not sure what to do about it, what to do to change it, and I wonder if my objections will cause drama in my household.  As the economy being in a slump has hit us in a difficult manner, it would not be wise for our family to splurge and get everyone 3-4 unnecessary gifts, just because it's what we do.  Are we thinking of Jesus, when we're opening up the latest book, gadget, socks, or traditional Christmas Eve pajamas?  Yet will we do it?

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