Friday, December 22, 2006
The Xmas Season - Xcess, Xhaustion, and Xscasty
First, an Xcess of material goods must be amassed; gifts, we call 'em. These objects embody in physical form our love for our family and friends. We hope the Xpressions on the faces of those recipients unwrapping our presents to them will justify the Xtra effort and cost of placing those things in their hands. The children, unskilled in the poker game of social relations, will give us honest answers with their smiles and grins, and the twinkles in their eyes.
We wish we could give a facile dismissal to the crass materialism of an American Xmas, but we cannot. The tradition thrives because so many people use it to confirm the tender feelings we have for each other. To those of us who grew up poor, a new tv, cell phone or camera means we are loved. To those of us who grew up poor, giving an expensive gift represents the sacrifice of love.
Yes, time, attention, devotion and providing food, warmth and shelter for another are superior markers of affection; but the material gifts of toys and gadgets also symbolize and convey love when the other needs are already abundantly met.
The frenzy of wrapping means four hours of sleep on Xmas eve, typical for a parent. Long after late night church, long after the kids begin to dream of Santa, Mom or Dad or both, labor to produce those golden early Xmas morning minutes. In the wee hours we manufacture those happy moments, a few hours later, when the kids wake and the gift exchange starts.
Legend holds that gift giving on Xmas began with X's birth, when the Magi rode into town carrying gifts for the baby X. But the ancient rituals pre-date X by untold centuries. The traditions varied greatly, so what we know today really is the product of today.
Even in the good old USA, Xmas itself declined sharply during the early 1800's. It fell out of favor for a while, and was barely practised. A fellow named Dickens revived it, almost single handedly.
Nowadays, midnight or late church services mark Xmas eve. For me, the church service is the highlight and the best part of the whole Xmas season. Holding a lit candle, in a large darkened room, singing with hundreds of others about the most holy and elevated feelings, is close to Xcasty. The feeling of joy lightens my heart and removes the crushing oppression of the many Xcesses and Xhaustion.
Each Christian forges his own relationship with X. So, too, Xmas means something different for each practitioner.
Incidentally, the versatile "X" as stand-in for the word "Christ" goes all the way back to very early Greek versions of the New Testament. The letter "X," or Greek "chi" is the first letter of the word, "Christ."
Merry Xmas, gentle readers. Merry Xmas to you all.
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