’Tis the season to celebrate stuff

Brian Jones
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As I write, we are hoping for a respite from the weeklong deluge of rain so Older Boy and I can put a string of Christmas lights on the chicken coop.

Some people might think it offensive or sacrilegious to so decorate such a lowly structure, but then, the lord and saviour was born in a barn amongst beasts, so in a way it seems fitting.

Far more offence is likely to be caused, as it is every year, by stores that put Christmas decorations up before the Halloween decorations are even taken down, causing cries of consumerism and commercialism to echo across the rain-soaked land.

Personally, I like the commerce of Christmas: the downtown lights, the window displays, the sales, the songs, the cards, the Salvation Army Christmas kettles, the giving, the receiving, the spending.

Christmas is fun. Accusations of tackiness and greed come from those who totally miss the point.

“It’s all about money,” it’s commonly said.

Gosh, that’s a new one — as if our whole life and society isn’t about money. Read the headlines. Watch the news. Listen to the politicians and experts and pundits. Almost everything of public concern is about money: efficiency, productivity, growth, prosperity, taxes, trade, income, pensions, security, strikes, lockouts, justice, equality, widgets, etc.

Doctors in Newfoundland (and Labrador) care deeply about their patients, but they also — as we’ve all learned recently — have strong affection for a good dollar.

Money is everywhere you look, figuratively speaking. It’s even on the sports pages, which in other eras were more concerned with last night’s scores than with astronomical salaries and crazy contracts. On some days, it’s easy to think you’ve mistakenly turned to the business pages. (“Leafs most valuable franchise in league, lose again.”)

At least the money thrown around at Christmas retains, and helps to revive, the undervalued trait of generosity.


Missing mangers

Contrary to what many critics contend, it isn’t consumerism that has stomped the meaning — i.e., the religious aspect — out of Christmas. That has largely been a collective decision.

Personally, I like the commerce of Christmas: the downtown lights, the window displays, the sales, the songs, the cards, the Salvation Army Christmas kettles, the giving, the receiving, the spending.

Are there any municipalities that sponsor a Baby Jesus Parade?

The pap that pupils are forced to perform at so-called Christmas concerts is appalling. If teachers are going to get kids to sing a song to the tune of “Silent Night,” they should respect the tradition and not change the words to a bunch of meaningless babble about bells and snowflakes and so on.

Store managers and owners could also show a bit of courage by displaying, say, the three wise men alongside Rudolph and Frosty. Somewhere in a Commerce 101 textbook, there must be a chapter entitled, “Religious-themed Christmas displays and how they scare away customers.” It probably follows the chapter, “Insurance agents and their good intentions.”


Great gifts

On the flip side, we shouldn’t allow religiosity to steal the Christmas season. Peace and goodwill and joy are as important to atheists and agnostics as to believers. Churchgoers don’t have a monopoly on goodness. (Here’s my response to the Pope: “I’ll grant you that hell may indeed exist. If so, there is surely a sizable section set aside for certain priests.”)

Christianity, for all its faults and past sins, gave Western civilization the concepts of freedom of choice and individual rights. It’s a thousand years and then another half millennia from Jesus Christ to the Magna Carta to the U.S. constitution, but the connection is undeniable and admirable and profoundly important.

And that is why, Charlie Brown, Christmas should be celebrated not only by Christians — practicing and lapsed alike — but agnostics and even atheists. All the trappings and tinsel are wonderful, but it’s the ideas they represent that spur us to put up lights, blow cash and hike into the woods to cut a tree.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Salvation Army Christmas, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, U.S.

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