What do stories like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful life, and A Christmas Carol have in common? Now, I’m not talking about snow, Santa, and the Baby Jesus. That’s just trimmings on the tree, so to speak. If you were to take a critical survey of Christmas movies, poems, and literature, you might notice a few thematic trends. The protagonists all make a transition from a place of despair and doubt to a place of hope and belief.
Some people balk at this, claiming that these stories teach you that leaving behind your logical faculties is the key to happiness. While it’s true that these tropes have produced some truly awful Christmas specials, it addresses an issue that everyone (in the Northern hemisphere at least) has to deal with every December. The days are getting shorter and colder. The trees are black and bare. Those of us with central heat argue that there’s no reason for us to fear not making it through the winter in our modern society. Yet for reasons we cannot explain, we feel depressed. The negative thoughts and questions of our lives seem more present in the dark of winter. Are we good people? Are we living up to our potential? Do we really deserve all that we have? These thoughts begin to influence our decisions. At some point it’s not enough to know logically that winter will pass, that hope is real and just around the corner. We adorn our houses with the light that we so miss from brighter seasons. We give each other gifts so that we can symbolize in something physical. Some people even do daft things like erecting trees in their houses.
So if you’re concerned that you are celebrating a Holiday that is based on mere Christian/Pagan/Saturnalian traditions, or on things that aren’t real, ask yourself this. Is happiness you feel from Christmas real? If your answer is yes, then you understand that the celebration itself is its own reward. As long as we have the long, dark winter months, we will have Christmas.