A long, long time ago before anyone understood astronomy, as the days grew shorter people were terrified that the sun was going away. Fires were lit and dances were danced in an attempt to call back the sun. It always worked.
Now we understand the patterns of the earth and sun that account for the changing length of days and seasons. However, the celebrations associated with these celestial events are still joyfully observed. Many holidays have a religious or historical basis but at the same time are associated with the time of year. Easter means spring to most, but has a much deeper religious significance to many. Christmas is similar. At its’ essence, it is an important religious observance, while many see it as a winter break and time to decorate, give gifts, etc...
According to most sources, about one-third of humanity is Christian. Not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Some believe that the commercial atmosphere and Santa Claus are contrary to their religious beliefs. Indeed the pagan origin of decorated trees and celebrating on the winter solstice are an anathema to the deeply felt Christian beliefs of many. On the other hand, this cheerful holiday is celebrated in many non-Christian communities.
Now, let’s return to the days of yesteryear when I was a small child. My family did not celebrate Christmas along with two-thirds of humanity. If I had realized that we were in the majority, I would have felt better. Our neighborhood was mostly Ukrainian Catholic. My best friend did celebrate Christmas and had the most wonderful train set. It was not under the tree. It was set up in the basement and decorated for the holiday. That’s right. The trains were not holiday decorations. The trains were decorated for the holiday. I visited often. I did not wish to own such a toy; I was just happy to be able to see, and occasionally play with it.
There was one Christmas tradition that I truly coveted. I wanted to be able to hang up a stocking and find it stuffed with treats in the morning. I nagged my parents, who tried their best to ignore me. I nagged more until they grew angry. I cried. I would not stop. Something about this tradition was really under my skin. Then, one Christmas eve (I was maybe 6 years old?), I told my parents that I was going to hang up a stocking (knee socks) at the foot of my bed and “there had better be treats in there in the morning”. My parents were not used to any difficulties from me. I was usually quiet, obedient, and afraid of punishments (God or Parents’). They must have been worried, because in the morning my socks were full. They were full of fruit- mostly apples and oranges. Having an orange in the middle of winter WAS a treat. I was satisfied. My parents had actually compromised on something. That was my Christmas Miracle.
Now I like the decorations. I appreciate the lights (electric, candles, etc.) during the dark days. I understand the fear of the pagans. I respect the religious fervor for holidays. I believe that any day is a good day to appreciate our blessings.