Christmas is a joining of Christian celebration and Winter Solstice. Therefore it is a co-mingling of the ideas of re-birth and sacrifice, two main ingredients in faith. In Christianity, it was God’s son and in neolithic and Bronze age times, Winter Solstice was the time of year that you celebrated the re-birth of Gods and goddesses and the start of a new year. But with every new thing comes sacrifice. With winter solstice in ancient times, starvation was a very real concern and often happened, so they would kill their cows so they would not have to feed them through the winter, but this sacrifice made it possible for the people to have fresh meat and it helped assure them that they (or most of them) would make it through the harsh cold. In Christianity, it is the sacrifice of God’s son that makes re-birth possible and gives hope and a new fresh start.
Whatever faith you find yourself in, sacrifice plays the most important part. Most religions require some sort of sacrifice on your part. It is what spurs on the success, it is what touches us deeply and shows us what is truly important.
This idea of offering something more than ourselves for the good of all and our future brings me to my mom’s yearly Christmas letter written just for her kids. This year, her letter was especially good.
Influenced by the times we live in economically and by personal experience, she wrote that the real gifts we receive in life are those that cost us something, something real, our time, our effort and sometimes our last penny. Recalling her childhood, she remembers being in 5th grade living in Arizona when for Christmas she received two small gifts, a set of paper dolls and a cross necklace that if you looked very closely had the The Lords Prayer in it.This was also the same year my Grandpa, her father, slipped a disk in his back and lost his business, his home and everything else they owned.
She went on to say, “I remember those gifts because I was old enough to know that small as they were, they were a huge sacrifice for my parents. They gave to us, out of their need.”
She then quotes David from the Bible saying ” I will not offer offerings which cost me nothing” and she recalled all the gifts we (My two brothers, their wives and my family) have made her and how those were her favorite because she knew it took time out of our day. “I know, I know, it sounds like Little House (on the Prairie), but the point is, it is the time and the sacrifice behind the gift that makes it special, not the cost.”
I agree with my mom.
Not to say that store-bought gifts suck and you didn’t think about what you bought Aunt Nan. I am also not saying you should try to make all your gifts, but with commercialism being the focal point of the holidays, it takes less thought and time to give something to someone. Sometimes we buy gifts because we feel we have to, not because we truly want to. It’s very easy just to grab something that’s trending now and wrap and pass it off. It leaves me questioning if a gift doesn’t come from the heart than is it really a gift at all?
In trying to think of how to wrap up this blog I still keep going back to the word Sacrifice. The Pagans did it, knowing that starvation may indeed come but also knowing that with the sacrifice they would also be assured food and more celebration. At the root of Christianity is the belief that God’s son was sacrificed to bring peace and hope to everyone, a sacrifice of one man to save the whole army idea.
So In closing, I love giving gifts and I love buying them and also making them but always I think gifts should be of the heart, not obligatory or thoughtless, whatever that means for you. If that means searching the aisles until the perfect gift is found and not settling until it is, or if that means making something unique for a friend or spending your last penny for your child ; just make sure it’s truly from you.
For Christmas this year I hope, as my mother put it so eloquently, ” that you give and receive gifts of sacrifice this year.”
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad,Mele Kalikimaka, Happy Kwanza and Happy Winter Solstice.