You’re at the grocery store during the month of December. Wreaths decorated with ribbons and tinsel overwhelm the store. As you finish checking out, the cashier replies, “Merry Christmas!” not even considering you may not be Christian.
However, nowadays, you don’t even need to be a practicing Christian to celebrate Christmas. It has evolved from a holiday concerning the birth of Jesus Christ to one about the fascination of an obese bearded man dressed in a red suit, trying to break into your home. This is also the time we see more bumper stickers with “Put ‘Christ’ back in Christmas” brazenly written.
Sure, this holiday has started leaving the Christian religion out of the picture, but there’s another group of people who are alienated entirely. The inner Clark Griswold in us wants to have the most Christmas spirit and make our electricity bills spike as a result from thousands of lights outside of our homes. But the Jewish family living across the street from you has to sit back with sunglasses as you blind them with an in-your-face light show.
The commercialization of Christmas forces those who choose not to celebrate Christmas to assimilate and buy Christmas trees, more than eight presents and a smoked ham for dinner. Kevin Bermeister, founder of Jerusalem 5800, a long-term planning and research project for greater Jerusalem, overheard his local florist saying he sells more Christmas trees to Jewish families than non-Jewish families each year.
Though a tree may seem like it has nothing to do with religion, it is the symbolism behind it. In medieval Germany, Christians decorated these evergreens with apples, representing the Garden of Eden.
But the thing is, more and more Jews are participating in Christmas because they’re succumbing to it, since it constantly surrounds them in the media. Just the other day, one of my fraternity brothers and I decorated our house with a wreath and $80 worth of Christmas lights. He had mentioned this is his favorite time of the year at school because he gets to decorate with lights, since his family is Jewish. He did, however, bring a menorah from home.
Even though the holiday was based on the Christian religion, it doesn’t have to be about Christ. It’s a time when our troubles will be out of sight, a time to be selfless and cherish our family and friends.
Take it from a kid whose birthday happens to fall on Christmas. Yes, my birthday is Christmas. To answer your question, yes, I get double presents. But every year, I never see the holiday as something religious, and that is becoming a major trend among others.
According to research conducted last year by the Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project, out of the 92 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas, 32 percent said they celebrate it as more of a cultural holiday. What’s more interesting, though, is 86 percent of adults celebrate by attending family gatherings and buying presents for friends and family, compared to the 54 percent of people who attend church.
Part of the reason why less Americans who celebrate Christmas incorporate religion into the holiday is because of Coca-Cola’s help in modernizing our image of Santa Claus in its advertising during the ’30s.
Santa, in a way, has put Christ not back in Christmas but back up on the cross. As years go by, we incorporate religion less and less, for we are too preoccupied by sales to attend church. But for me, the child who shares the same birthday with Jesus, this day is about spending time with my family as well as being cheerful. All religions aside, our focus should be on happiness, and that is what this time of the year is all about.
Email Chris Burek at firstname.lastname@example.org.