It’s that time of year again. Everyone around you seems extremely happy, his or her dreams fulfilled. This joy is of course shared with friends and family, and one might get the illusion that the whole world is at peace. However, as John Lennon already realized, this illusion is easily shattered. Indeed, peace is not all around us, and certainly not worldwide. Is it therefore hypocrite to celebrate Christmas and enjoy all the fun that comes with it?
During its earliest celebration, Christmas was a weeklong Roman festival centralized around forgiving and peace. Roman law dictated an exemption for damaging property and injuring people. One might even go as far as to say that slaves were briefly liberated from their master’s reign. On top of all this, Roman schools were closed so children could properly benefit from all this joy. But as we all know, the biggest of all Christmas themes is the birth of baby Jesus.
Even if you’re not all that set on honouring these traditional Christmas stories, you’ll probably be enjoying a lovely gift giving evening with family and friends. That privilege of spending this night with loved ones should not be denied to anyone, but unfortunately it is.
Throughout history Christmas has always been that special day were differences are set aside. We think of a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday that brings groups together across lines of wealth or social status. It was in this Christmas vision that Washington Irving (an American author, essayist, historian and diplomat of the early 19th century) addressed the American people. His aim was to make Christmas popular again after it was abandoned around 1776. The reason for this abandonment was due to the fact that Christmas was an “English” holiday, and thus not very popular with these newly independent Americans.
As you can see, the Christmas spirit is not at all a new phenomenon. Even in 1914, during the First World War, hostile troops decided to have a truce and enjoyed a drink together (and some of them even exchanged gifts – all though one can question what these gifts were, …). This example shows us that war is truly over if you want it to be. Why can there be peace at the most unexpected times and places during Christmas? Why can’t we achieve this peace all year round?
There’s always that special Christmas feeling that does the trick. Because, let’s face it, it’s hard not to get goose bumps when Christmas love is all around you.
Today Christmas is mostly about fun and gifts, and Christmas parties are most memorable of all parties. Even people that don’t believe in God, participate in the celebrations. Even the media seem to have engaged in this joy by avoiding all depressing news, and making sure people keep up the happy holiday spirit. But is it a bad thing that this makes us, even for a moment, forget about the world’s sorrow? Usually, it’s hard to escape all the injustice, so one might say Christmas is a welcomed change. We can only assume that this exact same thought was present with the German and Allied troops when they decided to lay down their arms and celebrate Christmas as it was once intended.
This holiday is truly a chance to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and be reborn into a better person. Hopefully, Christmas can become a holiday celebrated around the world, by and for everyone, black or white, young or old, believer or atheist. No one should be excluded from the joyful feast that promotes peace and love for all. Christmas can change the world most likely by giving people a moment to sit down and be happy, be at peace and think about their beloved ones. In the spirit of Charles Dickens: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year long.”