With Christmas just a few weeks away, it is hard to miss the ongoing discussion about the “true meaning of Christmas” and the way I see it, you only need to consider the important relationships in your life to figure out what the day of December 25 means to you. Who are you spending the holiday season with? Who do you wish you were spending the holiday season with? Why?
In my case, my relationship with my mother defines a good chunk of what Christmas means to me because she is one of the people I repeatedly spend the holiday season with. It’s safe to say the traditions we’ve established have resulted in an enjoyably predictable day filled with presents, a church service, family dinners, and a late night movie. Especially since I am now in university and only return home for the holidays, the welcoming and familiar atmosphere of being home to decorate the tree and other activities of the like is what I find myself day-dreaming about when someone mentions Christmas.
I did not realize how much the holiday traditions created between my mother and I over the years had shaped my view of Christmas until my older sister asked me a simple question just four years back. “What if we didn’t do presents this year?” My immediate response then was outrage. How could we do Christmas without presents? It was only after that I was contemplating why my burst of anger was so poignant that I realized a large part of what Christmas is for me is the very activities like exchanging gifts that fill up the day.
For you, the person you repeatedly spend the holidays with may have very well set up different traditions. This is why even for someone who grew up in the same country as myself, surrounded by the same culture, could have an entirely different understanding of what the Christmas day holds because of the different people they spend the holiday with.
Where cultural background does make a large impact on the meaning of Christmas is precisely with our understanding of what Christmas should be about. Culture, through mediums like the media, shapes what we think Christmas should ideally be about.
This is why the second most important relationship that defines my view of Christmas is my non-existent relationship with my yet-to-meet future boyfriend. As a girl growing up in North America, listening to songs like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, watching romantic holiday movies, and dreaming about the day when Christmas will be a time to appreciate my significant other, the romantic side of Christmas seemed like the obvious side I was missing.
Until, one of my good friends gave me a phone call the other day.
She explained her plight regarding dating and the holidays. For her, being an international student from South Korea on a tight budget, the holidays were turning out to be extremely stressful. The logistics of gift giving with her boyfriend for whom money was no obstacle, dinners with his Atheist family that did not approve of “Christmas” but rather “X-mas”, and holiday parties thrown by her boyfriend’s white friends that seemed to consider excess drinking fun rather than emotionally draining, were all upcoming issues she would need to deal with. As much as dating during the holidays seemed perfectly ideal, it was through my friend that I realized just how wrong that notion could be in reality.
My friend, who was coming from a conservative, Christian background and her boyfriend, who grew up in Canada being told Christmas was about three things: Santa, family, and friends, both had difficulty reconciling their differing notions of a perfect Christmas.
Nonetheless, because of where I grew up, Christmas will always hold ideals of romance, Santa Claus, and holiday parties.
For you, what relationships in your life, romantic, familial, or spiritual, shape your view on the “true meaning of Christmas”?
I hope you find that when all is said and done, those very relationships reflect why this holiday season brings you joy, tears, or a mix of both.