Christmas gets complicated, but we want it to be simple. We like Hallmark movies that make us believe it is.
All we gotta do is believe.
Believe in Christ.
Believe in Santa Claus.
Believe in ourselves.
Believe in family.
Believe in one another.
Believe in the old Merle Haggard song lyrics: “If we make it through December, everything’s gonna be all right.”
Well, I do believe in all of those. I especially believe that ol’ Merle hit the nail on the head, and a lot of folks know just what he was singing about.
In Merle’s song, he’d been laid off from work and couldn’t even buy a Christmas tree for “daddy’s girl.” I’m sure more folks than you realize have been in that same fix.
Thankfully, that’s not the case for most of us. We suffer not from want, but from plenty.
Some seasons find us more flush than others, but seldom do we find the foot of the tree absolutely bare. Like in another country song, Loretta’s “Daddy always seemed to get the money somewhere.”
Truth be told, somewhere in the backs of all our minds, a romanticized version of a materially impoverished Christmas ranks high in our holiday fantasies. We want to believe that love makes the most meager of gifts the most cherished. It’s true. But we want to read about it in the last chapter of a book or see it played out in the last scene of a movie, rather than live it
Most of us don’t have the resolve or courage to simplify to that degree, and we’d have to be a little off-kilter if we did. If we’ve ever been there, we don’t want to go back. Lots of not-so-lovely things go with poverty — like hunger, sickness, cold bedrooms and drafty clothes. It makes for good movies, though, way up on Walton’s Mountain.
No, what troubles us these days is not that we’re too poor to enjoy Christmas.
We’re too busy — so busy trying to get it all right and to have a good time that we forget how. We’ve effectively turned blessings into millstones around our necks. For example:
• Christmas cards are great. I like getting them and I like giving them, though I’m quite content to let Martha handle the chore. But, cards and postage are expensive, and time-consuming to sign, address and mail. If friends and kin don’t have the money or time to send them, they shouldn’t. I’ll think no less of them and hope they return the sentiment.
• For anyone 21 and older, gifts are the worst part of Christmas. Finding the “perfect gift” becomes unnecessarily stressful, and unless you’re absolutely certain of another’s wants or needs, never “perfect,” anyway. Prosperity makes it even worse. Anything affordable that our friends or family need or want, they likely already have. Grown kids often spend too much and parents seldom have a clue about what, how much or anything else. When giving gifts becomes obligatory and getting them elicits groans or sends the recipients on a guilt trip, it’s time to ask, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” The same applies when kids’ “wish lists” become “expected lists.”
• The 12 days of Christmas in Christian tradition are the days between Dec. 25 and Epiphany, Jan. 6, but in today’s culture they might be the days allotted for family gatherings. That it takes a dozen might be debated, but we sure can’t do it all on one day — that side meets on Christmas Eve, this on Christmas Day and some of both on Christmas night, while others have a weekend fete and somebody’s grandma somewhere figures everyone should come to her place for Sunday lunch. One year, we just chucked it all and went to Disney World. The idea is again having increasing appeal, except I wouldn’t have to go nearly so far. How about I just stay at my house on Christmas Eve and watch “A Christmas Carol,” starring Mickey Mouse?
Later, we could go to church for a candlelight service and hear again what Christmas is really about.
It’d be just like in a Hallmark movie.
It’s as simple as can be. You just gotta believe it can be.
I’m not exactly sure when I wrote this, but it was before email or social media greetings — Jim Hamilton. Find more of my columns in my 2020 collection, “Ozarks RFD, 2010-2015,” available through the newspaper office or by contacting me at email@example.com.