By Mike Ullery
For many of us, December is the most magical time of the year. For
others, the final month of the year is nearer the “final straw” rather
than a season to celebrate.
“A season to celebrate.” That begs the question, exactly what are we celebrating?
The answer to the question, of course, is that we are celebrating the
birth of Jesus. The day is among the most holy of the year.
Christmas has also become known as a season for giving. The tradition
of giving gifts supposedly derives from gifts of gold, frankincense and
myrrh brought to Baby Jesus by three wise men.
In that sense, the giving of gifts has been around since that first Christmas in Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago.
Tied into the birth of Jesus and the giving of gifts is the legend of
Saint Nickolas, a third-century Roman Catholic bishop who helped the
needy. Saint Nickolas is the basis for what (who) has become Santa
So, how could two men, Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary — the son of
God, and Saint Nickolas, a bishop so known for giving and helping
others that he rose to Sainthood in the Catholic church, be so lost and
forgotten in today’s world, during the season where the lives of both
should be our primary focus?
Greed. Selfishness. Disrespect. All of the “above.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Americans are primarily responsible
for the corporate, retail and personal greed and overindulgence that
has become Christmas in America.
I think back to the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.” Edmund Gwenn,
who plays Kris Kringle in the classic film, talks about how he, Santa
Claus, and the real message of Christmas had been lost. If George Seaton
and Valentine Davies, writers of the film, could only see how much
worse things have gotten since that time, they would roll over in their
graves, as they say.
Christmas has developed into a make-or-break season for retailers
across America and probably around the world. Money! That seems to be
the only issue today. Black Friday is one of the most embarrassing
"events" that has ever been created. It does nothing but showcase
American's glut for material things.
The tradition of giving gifts, begun by three wise men and built upon
by Saint Nickolas, has turned into a free-for-all of shopping greed and
the long-practiced American tradition of having to “one-up” your
friends, neighbors and relatives when it comes to the giving of gifts.
Another issue with Americans is that parents seem to have lost the
ability to tell their children "no." Just how much junk, excuse me,
stuff do our kids really need?
I remember when I was a kid, looking through the Sears and the JC Penney Christmas catalogs.
I recall wanting a lot more stuff than Santa's sleigh could haul. I
also learned that there was a big difference between wanting something
and receiving something.
As difficult as it must have been, I believe that the fact that my
parents grew up during the Great Depression was ultimately a good thing.
My parents and those of their generation knew about what was important
and what was frivolous. They knew that wanting something and needing
something were two entirely different things.
This holiday season, I encourage everyone to think more about the
real reason that we celebrate Christmas. Give thanks for what you
already have ... family and friends. There is nothing wrong with
purchasing gifts for others, as long as the giving is done for the right
reasons — and in moderation, a term most Americans have never been able