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In My Own Words

Rekindle the Season

Nick Pane

(12/2012) As Andy Williams so famously put it, it's the most wonderful time of the year. The holiday season is upon us once again, and all of the good feelings (and madness) that come with Christmas have returned.

It's likely that people have already brought the decorations down from the attic, are making plans to set up the Christmas tree if it hasn't already been done, and of course, buying gifts for friends and loved ones. Add in the Christmas songs that will be played on repeat from now until Christmas day, preparing the Christmas dinner, and any other traditions that each family has, it is certainly a time of year that brings about a lot of stress, but also joy. It seems fair to say that Christmas is a time of year that everyone looks forward to, as it is a holiday celebrated by the billions across the globe.

There are certain things about Christmas that differ from culture to culture, but the aura and wonder that comes with the season is something that is universal. Christians around the world celebrate and commemorate the birth of Christ, and recognize Saint Nicholas, more popularly known as Santa Claus, as the central figure of the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus is, without a doubt, the most significant and identifiable personality that is related to Christmas, and the most famous Christmas story involves Santa arriving at children's houses late at night on Christmas Eve to deliver them gifts if they have been good during the year. It is one of the great traditions in Western cultures, as the ties between what Santa Claus represents and the wild imaginations of children are undeniable. It's also a terrible shame that this integral part of Christmas seems to have been lost on so many people.

If you were to come to America without any prior knowledge of Christmas, there is a good chance that you would think the holiday season starts in October. People seem to have forgotten the idea of too much of a good thing, and the commercial part of Christmas has certainly diluted the holiday spirit. I'm sure that I'm not the only one that saw Christmas decorations and arrangements in stores before Halloween, and surely you have probably heard a Christmas song or two by about now. Given that Thanksgiving was not too long ago, things like this disappoint me.

Not only are people overlooking the true meaning of Christmas, they are doing so at the expense of other holidays. For the first time, shoppers had the option of skipping out on Thanksgiving festivities early to begin their Black Friday spending spree, as stores were opening their stores as early at 8:00 Thursday evening. If you ask me, such an idea is appalling. Thanksgiving is an equally popular holiday that promotes family values and being together. However, if you decided that you wanted to get a head start on your holiday shopping, all you had to do was wait until Thanksgiving dinner ended, and it was off to the stores to grab video game consoles and winter clothing while there was an additional 15% off. I don't know about you, but I don't see how keeping an extra ten dollars in your pocket outweighs being with your family and loved ones. Not to mention, with the limitless powers of the internet, isn't it more convenient to do some online shopping and save yourself the trouble? Personally, I've never liked the idea of Black Friday, because it promotes Christmas in such a commercial and superficial way, although people seemingly start to get their Christmas fill far before Thanksgiving.

Being a pretty avid user of social media, I have seen people make comments about Christmas as early as July, which is ridiculous. Many of my Facebook and Twitter friends like to boast about how they are listening to Christmas music before the leaves even begin to change color. I understand the love that people have for Christmas, but I don't find it necessary or plausible to start thinking about it before the calendar year is even half over. If it's the summertime, I'm much more interested in enjoying trips to the shore, and baseball season. My leisurely activity is going to pertain to the time of year that it is, and if you are getting in the holiday spirit before schools are even opening up again, you clearly are missing what we are really supposed to be celebrating.

I admittedly do not consider myself a devout or religious person in any way, and it has definitely been some time since I attended church. That being said, everything that Christmas and the holiday season represents is something that I try to remember and uphold. Christians have celebrated Christmas by honoring Jesus' birth to the Virgin Mother, and the 25th of December is believed to be a specific anniversary of his conception. One of the popular traditions of this day happens to be the exchange of gifts, because who doesn't love getting something for free? Kidding aside, giving and receiving gifts has become a staple of the holiday, and is one of the many things that brings families together. Homes are decorated with, among other things, Christmas trees, lights, and decorations of Santa, the manger, and wreaths. If you happen to live in a colder climate, snow is very often associated with the season as well, and caroling is also very frequent. To me, these are the lasting impressions that I have of Christmas. Everyone is in good spirits during this time of year, and when Christmas Day finally arrives, all of those good feelings and traditions come to fruition.

Do people really feel as if they are in the holiday spirit when it's 1:30 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, and they are wrestling with other shoppers over the extra toys they intend to give to their kids? The story behind gift-giving is that children that were "good" received presents and children that were "naughty" received coal. What kind of message does it send when shoppers are pressed up against the doors as they wait for stores to open, followed by a furious race from aisle to aisle to make sure that they can grab every last thing on their list? Not only is it such an empty way to celebrate Christmas, it's wrong. Christmas is about revisiting core familial values, and showing a little affection in the form of gifts goes a long way to make the season feel whole. Sure, in this economy, saving a little extra money by taking advantage of sales is always a plus, but at what cost? I think people expend too much energy on the trivial parts of Christmas, and not enough on what really matters.

Everyone should just take a step back and put all of the catalogs down. Start listening to Christmas music in December, and you'll enjoy the music that much more. Don't be in such a rush to leave the house at midnight on Black Friday, and maybe indulge in a little more Thanksgiving dessert. And when Christmas Day arrives, try to revisit your childhood when Santa Claus was very much a real thing, and appreciate what you have instead of what you want.

Read other articles by Nick Pane