How Christmas Lost Its Meaning: What Did You Do Last Festive Holiday?

‘My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.’ – Bob Hope

Looking at the title of this post might have you wondering if I’m still suffering the holiday blues weeks or even months after the fork has been stuck in and the Christmas tree has long but withered.

But I can assure you that I’m way over it.

Rather, what prompts this post post-Christmas are deep-simmering thoughts that I have had for some time now but never really had a chance to put them into writing: how the true meaning of Christmas has been diluted through the years; how, somewhere along the way, we forgot what the true meaning of Christmas ought to be.

Christmas Today

You can really guess where I am going with this. Because no matter where you go, a common theme stands out during this season: the commercialization of the holidays.

Everywhere you look, people are busy writing down Christmas shopping lists and working themselves up over what gift to fetch their loved ones, a friend or colleague; the mass media is awash with a barrage of advertisements that kick in weeks before the season; and every shop (online or brick-and-mortar) is adorned with Christmas offers and holiday decorations.

There is a reason Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year and they keep getting bigger, recording year-on-year turnover increase. It was the same tune in 2016, a year during which, according to Adobe Digital Insights, saw the two days smash online sales records.

What’s my point?

The holiday season has become so commercialized that you cannot go anywhere without spotting some sales and ‘Holiday Deal!’ sign on store windows; neither can you those oh-so-ubiquitous Santa decorations meant to put you in the ‘festive spirit’.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against season decorations, or Santa bath mats and soap dispensers, or the Elf on the Shelf. It’s just that the marketing gimmick has become so commonplace that it has successfully managed to suck us in on the materialistic side of things. And in the process, we often forget to take the time to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.

So deep have we been sucked in that we are raising a generation of kids who grow up knowing that the holidays are a time to pamper ourselves and engage in all the sweet little trifles this life has to offer. If we are not breaking budgets shopping, we are engaged in bland office or neighbourhood parties. If we are not travelling to some destination halfway across the world, we are downing glasses of wine alongside crockpots of meatballs.

I know I sound like Ebenezer Scrooge right now and you are probably feeling sorry for me. But take it from me, there is a lot of magic and contentment and wonder without the commercialization so apparent these days.

By all means, the holidays are a great time to treat oneself. But when it becomes such a big deal to the point we start wearing Christmas jumpers right after Halloween, or we start feeling embarrassed when we cannot afford presents, or it results to demanding and ungrateful children, then sorry to say, but it is time to realize that it is all superficial (and a little bit silly).

Spending countless days wallowing about that perfect Christmas that Hollywood has painted in our minds, and breaking the bank on unnecessary purchases in the name of Christmas just shows how much we have forgotten to appreciate the simplicity of it all. It has become all about glitz and glam, and less about the actual meaning.

The True Spirit of Christmas

I know, I’m not supposed to be lecturing you on how best to spend your holidays – whatever floats your boat. But take a moment to remind yourself…

The reason Christians all over the world celebrate this day is to mark the birth of Jesus Christ who ultimately died for our sins. What he did was a selfless act, as were much of his actions while he was a resident here on earth. And here is the catch. While Christmas is a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it is also a day to reflect on what he did.

Jesus helped the less fortunate people in society: the poor, the hungry, the sick, the oppressed, the outcasts. He helped anyone who needed his help without any conditions. The Christian doctrine advocates for love of thy neighbour, as we do ourselves. While this has become somewhat of a cliché in this modern world we live in, it is time we started showing kindness to the less privileged in society. Just as our religion preaches.

While there are many philanthropic efforts happening every day in all corners of the world as we speak, let us not treat this as a task we need to cross off our lists so we can feel good about ourselves.  It’s never about us. The world is still plagued with poor people (financially speaking), as it is with people who have no guarantee of a meal every rising sun. Homeless folk. Sick children. Lonely souls, you name them.

While we go about our holiday shopping sprees and spoil our loved ones with gifts galore, let’s take a moment to reflect on how it feels like to be in the shoes of the less fortunate out there. Let us remind ourselves that just because we can afford unnecessary purchases and costly trips, not everyone can. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the true spirit of Christmas is not to lose ourselves in the sea of novelty items, but it is all about simple sharing.

And if we cannot do it at any other time of the year, then Christmas presents just the perfect time to donate, feed and spend some time with those who are lonely and homeless, as we also appreciate the loved ones that surround us.

‘Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.’ – Peg Bracken

Christmas is long but passed, but as we start the new year, let us not forget there will be another holiday season this year. And the one after that. And as is the norm, the commercial aspect of it will be a part of it. A big part of it – even bigger than the occasion itself. You could be forgiven for getting caught up in it all, considering commercially, Christmas is a way to make money and it has been made to look like this is what the holiday is all about.

I’ll say it again, I’m not out to spoil the party. Certainly, go on and wholeheartedly enjoy yourself when the next season rolls around. But while you are at it, don’t forget that there is more to Christmas than the expensive gifts and sparkling lights.

‘He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.’ – Roy L. Smith

Something as simple as dishing out candy to a kid on the street will change their Christmas for the better. And so will yours through the simple joy we get from sharing with or helping the less fortunate.

And it needs not be as expensive.

Food for thought.

Jillian Haslam Bio

Jillian is a qualified speaking coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Barclays, Bank of America, and the Royal Bank of Scotland are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.

Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with you helping you to wake up, inspire you to do better and be more confident.

Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author “Indian.English”. An inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision to help others.