I want you to celebrate Christmas this year.
Yeah, that’s right. You. I know, I don’t even know you. You might be Jewish. Or a Taoist. Or a Muslim. Or – gasp! – an atheist! Why would you celebrate the most Christian of holidays?
This is not about consumerism, and it most definitely is not about trying to convert you to Christianity. As commercialized as Christmas has become in the United States and much of the world, it is still about so much more than sales at your local mall. The Christmas spirit epitomizes that which is most fundamental about the world’s most pervasive religion: compassion, peace, forgiveness, celebration, brotherhood, gratitude, acceptance, and most of all, love and justice for all mankind. These are human ideals and emotions that being a non-Christian does not preclude anyone – anyone – from having.
If Christmas is a Christian holiday, then it is imperative that we share it. Instead of a commemoration of the birth of our savior, it needs to be a celebration of all the things that He stood for. And we must share it with all those who believe differently, if we want them to understand what our faith is really about. Not to convert them, but to love them, the way He would want us to.
I know many non-Christians do celebrate Christmas, but there are many more who don’t. I have Muslim and Jewish friends who do not, as well as atheist friends who only celebrate it because their families do. I want that to change. I want you, whoever you are, to celebrate Christmas, regardless of your personal beliefs or experiences with Christmas, or Christians in general. I want you to buy a tree and decorate it with lights, and put a big star on top. Not because a star supposedly guided the three wise men to Bethlehem, but because it’s a part of the imagery, a part of the holiday. The star on top of the tree has transcended the nativity story.
And yes, elements like the tree (and even the date) were appropriated from pagan festivals, many of which predate Christianity. I’ve often heard this as a criticism leveled against the holiday, but for me it just further strengthens what I love so much about Christmas: its potential to bring all the world together, even if for just one day: everyone of every race and creed and nation, united in peace and love. Just for one day.
I want you to buy presents, if you can afford them, for your children, or your spouse, or your parents, or your friends, or anyone that you love, and I want you to stick them under the tree until December 25th. If you have kids, I want you to have them write a letter to Santa, then stay up until they fall asleep to eat the cookies and milk and carrots.
You don’t have to take them to church, or teach them about Jesus or Christianity, if they don’t want to know. Forget about the religious aspect. They will form unbelievably powerful memories that will shape them for the rest of their lives, just as my memories of Christmases past have instilled this love of the holiday in me, and my desire to share it.I want you to hang icicle lights in front of your house, and drink Christmas Coke, and wear a Santa hat, and listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, for the month of December. I want you to sit down with your loved ones on Christmas Eve and watch A Christmas Story on TBS, or Elf, or It’s A Wonderful Life, or even Die Hard. Whichever Christmas movie most moves you.
I want the Christmas spirit to flow through you. I want you to smile at everyone you meet, give a gift to someone you dislike, forgive an enemy, feed someone who’s hungry, volunteer at a shelter, and most of all, remember to cherish all the things that you hold dear. Your slate is clean, if only for this one day.
I want you to do all of this, even if you are a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or Buddhist. I want you to celebrate Christmas even if you are a deist, or a Wiccan, or an atheist or agnostic. Even if you despise religion, and especially Christianity. Especially if you hate religion.
I am not offering our most important holiday up for grabs because I want to spread our faith, or even our message. I want you to celebrate Christmas because it is my favorite time of year, and I want to share it with the world. Regardless of what you believe, we are all one family, and that’s another thing that Christmas is about: family.
I beg of you, do not think that you cannot celebrate Christmas because you do not believe in the Christian religion. And so what if our society is saturated with Christmas products and media? So what if corporations use the holiday as an excuse to make money? So what if your favorite radio station changes to a Christmas music format for a month? Christmas can be whatever you make it, as long as you remember the fundamentals: peace, love, justice. Who could argue against these concepts deserving a holiday? Let go of any indignation you might feel at one religion making claims to a holiday for what should be universal human ideals. Accept it. Embrace it. Appropriate it. Christians may have created the holiday, but all of us, deep down, want to share it with the world. Everyone. If Christians can admit that our fundamental values transcend even our own religion, then non-Christians should be able to accept that beneath the vitriol of bad Christians and questionable history of the various sects, our message is pure. Christ taught love. Love for all, by all. It is an ideal, and it may never be attainable, but that does not mean that we as a species should not strive for it, if not every day of our lives, then at least this one day a year.
All I am asking, all that we ask, is that you share our most special day with us.