We all know that 2020 has become a mess of unpredictable events disrupting both our global and our personal worlds. A virus called COVID-19 has upended our lives, shut us up indoors, robbed us of income, separated us from loved ones, and restricted our lives outside our homes.
Our collective frustration with hatred and intolerance in our communities has run the gamut from peaceful protests to violence in the streets. But alongside all that, something remarkable happened: in the midst of COVID-19’s initial surges in early spring, homes were displaying Christmas lights.
From March and April right into July, some radio stations have been adding Christmas music to their schedules. At a time of year when sparse Internet traffic to Christmas-themed websites is the norm, they have been swarming with visitors. Christmas podcasts are attracting numbers of listeners never seen before in the summertime. This Christmas in July appears to be on track to be celebrated more widely than ever.
~ Reaching Out to Christmas ~
Unwilling to wait until December, we’re reaching out to Christmas. Why?
Is it merely for cultural comfort food, for a cozy security blanket when the world becomes too confusing and frightening? Or does Christmas have something more substantial to offer us?
Christmas is both universal and personal. It’s celebrated by a myriad of countries and cultures around the globe. Mention Christmas anywhere you go, and you have a common ground for conversation. Yet no two countries, no two families, no two persons celebrate it in exactly the same way.
It embraces cultural variations, public rituals, and deeply personal traditions. It can be celebrated by large crowds (perhaps not so much this year), or by communing quietly with one’s own heart. Its celebration can be sacred or secular, public or private, reverent or frivolous, and still be Christmas.
It wears many faces and moods, yet its very diversity springs from a central unity that we can all relate to. No matter who, no matter how, no matter where or when, Christmas invites us to be part of it.
~ Christmas: Our Past, Present, and Future ~
Christmas is our past, present, and future. Our Christmas observances connect us not only with our personal Christmases past, but with centuries-old traditions of our collective past. In our present, Christmas will certainly come with new challenges this year—but as it always has, it will adapt and grow.
If shiny new decorations are in short supply, we’ll brighten up old ones or craft new ones. If family gatherings are discouraged for public health reasons, we’ll find other ways to reunite. We’ll invent new means of celebrating our Christmas online—maybe we’ll even create virtual caroling or cookie-baking parties.
Many of us have already worshipped online this year. You can’t say “can’t” to Christmas; Christmas will say, “We can … somehow, some way, we will.” It simply will not be denied. Christmas is also our future: the new ways we discover to celebrate may well become traditions in the coming years.
Christmas is a survivor.
Like all of us, it has been through some rough times. In the long centuries of its history, it hasn’t always been embraced and anticipated. At times it has been criticized, reviled, and outright banned. During those times it lived on in the hearts of people who still believed in it, and eventually emerged stronger than ever.
No matter how dark our present times seem, Christmas has seen worse, has stuck with us through times worse than these, and is still here to offer its comfort and joy. Its message of “Peace on earth, goodwill to men” is a message we long to hear and to echo today, regardless of the season, and especially during uncertain times like these.
~ Christmas Is ~
Best of all—most important of all—Christmas IS.
When we feel overwhelmed by the ever-present threat of disease, loss of income, separation, dissension, and violence, and we reach out to Christmas for comfort, it will always open its arms wide to embrace us and reassure us that, no matter what time of year we seek it, Christmas is always a season of hope: the unchanging foundation of all our Christmases yet to come.
Written by Jan MacGillivray for Christmas-in-July 2020