Christmas thoughts, inspired by #ThePrompt

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This post was inspired by #ThePrompt linky hosted by the Mumturnedmom blog. The prompt word on this occasion was Christmas, no huge surprise bearing in mind the time of year. Click on the badge at the end to visit the linky.

I have an uneasy relationship with Christmas. On the one hand I think it is an excellent reason to have a party and get together with family and friends. On the other, I am very uncomfortable with the way the event has been commercialised beyond recognition and every year I feel like I haven’t done enough to mark the true meaning of the season.

Christmas, Bethlehem, #theprompt
One of the less aesthetically pleasing sights that can be found in modern day Bethlehem. Pic credit below.

I’ll give an example of that last statement. Over recent weeks I have visited Central London several times and been shocked at the number of homeless people on the streets. It seems to me there are many more rough sleepers than a decade ago.

At this time of year, when it has, at times, been bitterly cold outside, I have found myself thinking I should really purchase and distribute blankets or food for these individuals. Needless to say I have done nothing of the sort. Instead my money has been spent on hampers of beauty products and other gifts that aren’t really essential.

So that’s one reason I feel uneasy. Another is that many of the Christmas traditions we follow are, ahem, questionable.

About 20 years ago I spent some time in the Middle East. I visited a number of countries that would be best avoided in the current climate. Along the way I spent a little time in Egypt and Israel where many of the biblical stories took place.

It inspired me to learn more about the region and its history. To this day I can often be found reading books about theology, theological history and the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

Although I didn’t visit Bethlehem or Nazareth, I saw enough of the region to appreciate that snowmen, red Robbins, holly bushes, elves, turkeys and roasted chestnuts have little connection to Christmas. Most of the region is desert, when it snows it makes the international news and the average daytime temperature in December in Bethlehem is a comfortable 14 degrees Celsius (rising to 30 degrees in summer). That’s before you consider the state of Middle Eastern politics (see the image of the so-called Peace Wall above).

The one tradition that has some basis on early Christianity is, believe it or not, Father Christmas. It’s based on an early bishop known as Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus in Dutch, can you see where this is heading?). Saint Nicholas came from a wealthy background and, at night time, he dropped gifts of money down the chimney of houses of those he knew to be in need. Coming from Turkey (not the North Pole), houses had a completely different design with the staircase on the outside and so this was a relatively simple operation that didn’t require reidndeer or magical sleighs.

Okay, so European traditions have been moulded and adapted to celebrate Christmas and that is no bad thing. Even so, some of what we consider Christmassy is more than a little off-piste. I can think of no better example than the booze-fuelled office party, something I once looked forward to but am delighted to have no part in these days.

I don’t mean to be bah humbug. As I said at the start, Christmas provides a wonderful reason to get together with family and friends. It’s the one time of year when most of us make a Herculean effort to meet with and contact friends and family we rarely see.

The gifts may not be necessary, but they are generally given with the best intentions and after considerable thought. Even if I find myself feeling guilty for not making enough of a charitable effort, there are many people that do go out of their way to help those in need at Christmas and their efforts should be recognised.

Whatever you’re doing, however you’re celebrating, whether secular or religious, I wish all the very best for Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2015. Oh, and just so you know, I will be publishing one further blog post about the holiday season in a few days time. It’s a bit of a rant against one particular tradition that I don’t understand at all and will have a particular appeal to wine lovers. You have been warned!


Pic credit; Bill Rice. Image sourced from Flikr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0 agreement. For further information about Creative commons and links to the various agreements, follow this link.



23 thoughts on “Christmas thoughts, inspired by #ThePrompt”

  1. A very thought-provoking post. It is so easy to get caught up in the commercial whirlwind of Christmas – I do it too – and forget some of the meaning behind it. Wishing you and your family a happy Christmas

  2. I think Christmas has moved away from its ‘true meaning’ in many ways but as you say there is a lot of good that goes on at this time of year. I’m a fan of Christmas because I’m nostalgic and love all the good childhood memories it brings back for me. I genuinely get that warm fuzzy feeling at this time of year. Ultimately, I think Christmas is what you make of it and I try to make it about the good stuff! Thought-provoking post. Merry Christmas! #theprompt

  3. Wonderfully written (and thought provoking) post.
    It’s very true that the commercialised circus that is Christmas is far removed from it’s origins.
    I enjoyed this post, I am really looking forward to your rant. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. A very measured post John. I have to agree with everything you say about the commercialisation of it all and the ‘traditions’ that are nothing to do with the tenets of Christianity. But yes, like you and with children to boot, I find it impossible not to do all the usual and expected things. #theprompt

  5. I do love Christmas. But I do not like how over-commercialised it is. I don’t want to get ready for xmas three months in advance. But I love a day of giving my children gifts, eating yummy things and spending time with my husband and children.

    1. Enjoy giving gifts and spending time with your family. All very important…but just don’t feel under presure to make everyhting perfect. Thanks for commenting and have a great Christmas break.

  6. Great post John, thought provoking. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Christmas shouldn’t be about stuff, it’s an opportunity to focus on family, that we don’t often get the rest of the year. But it is so easy to lose sight of that in the commercialised chaos that is the run up to the big day. I love to give presents, receiving them is nice, but giving is so much nicer and that is something I hope to teach my children; while I take pleasure in watching their excited faces on Christmas morning ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt. Have a wonderful Christmas xx

  7. I agree that what most of us celebrate now has little to do with the original meaning of Christmas. I also agree that commercialisation has led to most of us not really thinking about the bigger picture (myself included). It’s important to think about these things, but, as you say, it is the one time of year we make special efforts to see the people we love. I now that’s one of the reasons we continue to celebrate here. Christmas for my family is about family and spending actual time together without the need for technology.

    1. Well, Andy, if you have a read of the Bible very little of it is dedicated to the Nativity. The word Christmas doesn’t even appear in it. Essentially you are correct, it is a celebration of the birth of the Messiah. The major Christian celebration is Easter, but I’m now getting all theological on you. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  8. Very thought provoking post John, and I have to say I largely agree. I can’t stand the commercialism aspect to Xmas either. For my little family it’s mainly about spending time with our loved ones and eating really good food. I like to even out the craziness by shopping for gifts all year round in sales and charity shops.

    Wishing you and yours and lovely break, great Xmas and fab start to the new year!

    1. Thank you, just an honest reflection on thoughts that bother me at this time of year! Have a wonderful break and good luck shoppin in the sales in 2015.

  9. There are definitely good and bad points about christmas. Like you said, appreciating those around you and spending time with family is a good thing. Not that we should need a reason to do this – sometimes it feels a bit forced, if you know what I mean? I don’t like the way it starts so early. All the decorations and commercialism seems earlier each year.

  10. You always put a different slant on things, or make me think about a subject in a different way – you’re a very eloquent and thought provoking writer. I totally agree that every year we can step further and further away from the true meaning of Christmas, and in fact for me it’s the children and their connection to school that keeps the real meaning of Christmas alive. It is a big effort to remember those outside of your immediate circle at this time of year, and I think Save the Children and it’s Christmas Jumper campaign did it very well – we got our children involved in this and they donated to a local toy charity. But it is hard, and your post has made me think about it again.
    Lovely to discover you & your blog this year.
    Have a lovely Xmas and I’m looking forward to your rant!
    Tracey @ Mummyshire xx

  11. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    John, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this post. I feel an identical unease with Christmas, and really wish that I had the impetus to go and help the homeless. I mean, physically go and distribute blankets, soup, company. The fact that Christmas has become such a commercial monstrosity makes me want to hide away during the festive season. I wish it could be a little more like the USA’s Thanksgiving, which I believe is more about people getting together than buying gifts. Buying presents is not a demonstration of how much you love someone, yet I found myself feeling terrible that I hadn’t made any purchases for anyone (I have no income whatsoever), despite my strong principles on gift-giving at Christmas. Anyway, thank heavens it is over for a year. I’m pleased to hear I’m not the only one with the same Christmas unease.

    1. Thanks for leaving such a kind comment Fiona. As it happens we’ve not long returned from doing the round of Christmas visits and I’ve been surveying just how much junk the kids have acquired. So little of it will get played with. As you say, it’s become an increcibly commercial and it’s a huge shame.

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