Photo Credit: University of Toronto
Why we must remember to have Christmas spirit during the holiday season
Athena Bucci, Features Editor
Christmas is known to be the most joyous and happiest time of year. They say it’s the season of giving, spending time with the ones you care about. At the same time, it can also be one of the most stressful times as everyone is scrambling around to find the best gifts for their family and friends, spending everything they have, and wearing themselves out to create a beautiful Christmas, all for the sake of pleasing others. With our minds caught up in so much of this stress, especially when you are taking exams around the same time, we can tend to forget about having our Christmas spirit and what this time of year really means for us.
For many people, especially after the past couple of years with the pandemic, the Christmas season may have felt different, less joyful and merry. I wanted to take the opportunity in this article to explore where we may have lost our way with the holiday, and try to remember what the meaning of the Christmas spirit is all about.
While many know the history of Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, the holiday season actually dates back long before. In many countries in Europe, the end of the year and the arrival of the winter solstice meant being thankful for everything the past year had given and hoping for success in the following one. Rome would celebrate Saturnalia, where they would honour Saturn, the god of agriculture, and celebrate with plenty of food and drinks, where even the enslaved were temporarily freed to partake in the holiday. Germany would honour the pagan god Oden during this time, as many were terrified of him, believing that he would fly around during the night to observe his people and decide who would prosper and who would perish in the new year. Many of the traditions from these celebrations, including decorating trees, sending out holiday cards, and gift giving, were brought together to create what we now know as Christmas.
I could go on and on about the historical aspects of the Christmas season. However, the question still remains: what exactly is the Christmas spirit? What exactly does it mean to be fascinated by the lights we hang on our houses and trees, or to sing Christmas carols in the street, or to be merry and giving to others? Have we spent so much of our holidays stressed out over pleasing people that we actually forgot what the season should be about?
With the modern manifestation of Christmas, there are many reasons why people may not even like the holiday. It could be estrangement or loss of family or friends, or even traumatic memories. Many people love the Christmas songs we hear every year, and while study shows that familiar songs can be positive, some argue that this is only true up to a certain point, after which it can become annoying and unpleasant. Not to mention, there is the amount of work that is put into creating a perfect Christmas: preparing a feast for all your family members, decorating every inch of your house, and of course, there is the fact that school is closed for the break, so you will have the whole household cooped up together and constant visitors who must be entertained.
You cannot forget about how pricey everything becomes once the holiday season hits. Everything has become quite expensive, and many people’s jobs have been affected by the pandemic, so going on the hunt to find the gifts your family members would absolutely love will come with a very high cost. Also due to the pandemic, there has been a constant delay with shipments of materials, supplies, and many different items, causing retail stores to have a shortage in products. CBC reported this past October about a shortage in books, clothes, and many more that could affect the holiday season. With backlogs from suppliers from overseas, as well as a shortage of workers, many merchandise may not arrive on time. These ongoing issues create problems for those who will be struggling financially while they are Christmas shopping or planning on how to spend their money during the season.
With these reasons to not like Christmas, it’s no wonder how people have lost their Christmas spirit. It feels like getting older has changed the way we now react to the holidays. We no longer get to look forward to visiting Santa Claus when he comes to the local mall, leave out the milk and cookies, watch as the neighbourhood is filled with colourful lights amongst the white snow, and be treated with countless presents on Christmas morning. All these things, the Christmas we knew as kids, filled with so much magic in the air, seemed to change as time went by, as we started to become more in-tune with reality and less naive.
There are many who believe the idea of the Christmas spirit lies within literature, or more specifically, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In the story, the ghost of Christmas present represents the essence of what Christmas means. He is seen as jolly, joyful, and generous, bearing a resemblance to St. Nicholas and appearing before Scrooge surrounded by a great feast and trappings of the season. This ghost is the embodiment of what the Christmas season entails, and brings Scrooge around to different homes, both of the wealthy and poor, to show him that despite hardships. The ghost shows how you can embody the essence of the Christmas spirit by being generous and showing appreciation to others. As Scrooge gets older, he becomes more greedy and enjoys the holidays purely as a time when people’s taxes and expenses were due. While those around him still chose to remain kind and generous, Scrooge was the opposite, he looked down on those less fortunate than him.
So, after all of this, what is the meaning of having the Christmas spirit? When looking at all the aspects of the holiday – in history, in literature, and in our modern time – it seems that it can be found within ourselves. Our perception of the way we see the world can change many times, but how we choose to continue to act about it is entirely up to us. While some of us could be struggling financially or emotionally during the holidays, if we choose to act with kindness, generosity, and appreciation, we can still have the Christmas spirit within ourselves, and share this attitude with those we love. Since we are older now, times have changed, and money might be tight, it is important to remember that Christmas is about spreading joy towards others. It is about spending the time with those you care about and actually allowing yourself to enjoy the season that allows your holidays to be filled with happy memories and reignite the magic inside.