Archived Story

Christmas! I say ‘Bah humbug!’ OK, not really

Published 6:31pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t the only one to feel this way about Christmas: bah, humbug!
We may think the whole Christian world looks forward to the holiday season with joy and enthusiasm. Not so! Oh yes, there are myriads of folks who thrive on the busyness of the Christmas season: the church services and special children’s programs celebrating the Christ Child’s birth; the melodic, joyous caroling; the procuring and decorating of an evergreen tree; the setting up of the traditional creche; the placing of a myriad of tiny lights on the house or in the yard; the rush of shopping for Christmas gifts, subsequent wrapping and sometimes standing in line to send to far-off places; the baking of delicious gingerbread men, fruitcakes and other holiday goodies; preparing for loved ones to visit during the holidays; cooking up a storm for Christmas Eve and Christmas; the sending of joyous greeting cards (often with an enclosure relating family activities and accomplishments).
But it can be overwhelming and just too much. It can be depressing. Too many folks have lost loved ones during the Christmas season. Others find themselves far from family and home where they once spent traditional Christmases. There are mothers and fathers experiencing their first Christmas without their children who have grown and now live in distant places. There are the elderly (please don’t make me call them senior citizens) who are physically and mentally unable to celebrate the holidays. And there are some (too many) who just can’t afford Christmas.
Some of us are indulgent to the point of placating obstreporous children with multitudes of gifts from Santa and stockings hung by the chimney and filled with goodies. We turn the house into a Christmas wonderland and spend precious hours, and too much money, looking for just the right gift for Uncle Henry. We party, sometimes recklessly, and feast to the point of overindulgence.
We also send church choirs and ensembles to nursing and rehabilitation centers bringing joy to these people, and our precious children learn pieces to speak and present special holiday programs for shut-ins. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts carry gift bags of goodies and necessities to the needy and groups and organizations prepare a Christmas meal for those who would have none.
And it all is done in remembrance of the Savior’s birth.
But what about Christmas without Christ? There are those who observe Christmas, but Jesus is missing. The last time my husband and I were in India on a volunteer project, we stayed through December to experience the holiday season in a country where the majority of the people are not Christian. India is such a country, with most of its population of the Hindu faith — they worship a multitude of gods, not God.
We were surprised to find these people celebrate Jesus’ birth in a big way with Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas gifts, Christmas parties and Santa Claus — but Christ is missing.  The gaiety, glitz and glitter of Christmas have found their way into the homes of India, no matter the religion.
During these three months we were in India, I was a teacher’s aide in a private, Hindu elementary school. In December, it was preparing for a Christmas program. It was delightful, but a different Christmas presentation, and an odd-looking Santa Claus appeared bringing candy and gifts for the students, who greeted him with enthusiasm.
Then, to my surprise, the youngsters presented a pantomime of the birth of Jesus. There was the baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph at his side; wise men and shepherds were praising and adoring the Christ Child while angels rejoiced at the Savior’s birth. It was beautifully and correctly done; there was even a small lamb anchored to one of the shepherds.
Afterward, I told the school’s head mistress how much I enjoyed the program, especially the pantomime of Jesus’ birth, which I had not expected.
Shobana, with that beautiful smile that graces the faces of so many Indian women, said she and her teaching staff think it important that their Hindu students learn about and respect the various religions of the world.
That revelation put a song in my heart. If only all the people on Earth had this attitude, it would be a better, and safer, place to live. Joy to the world!

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