Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Tom McDonald
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Christmas a paradoxical holiday


December 22, 2021

Christmas is exhausting.

These days, as a man teetering on old age and living alone most of the time, I’m just not motivated to get all dressed up for these holidays. My adult kids are having their own Christmases elsewhere this year, and I’m way too busy with work anyway; I don’t have time for a big holiday.

I’ll be fine with a nice nap on Christmas Day this year.

Not that Christmas is without depth for me, because it still means a lot to me — both as a religious and a secular holiday.

When I was growing up, Christmas Day was celebrated as Jesus’ birthday; my mom even made a birthday cake for him. We had a wooden, hand-carved Nativity Scene we could play with, and the magnificent story of baby Jesus’ birth took on a life of its own in my young and fertile imagination.

For my family, Christmas was a sacred holiday, one of great spiritual significance that was meant to be celebrated, especially, with and for the kids.

And of course, there were the presents. Always the presents. So many through the years that they hid the true meaning of Christmas, so that now, it’s become a secular holiday that feeds the economy more than our souls.

Or does it?

Let’s think about Christmas collectively, as a nation. It’s not exclusive to Christians; it’s a federal holiday — and a big one at that. Big enough that some people get two days off, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while others (in retail) have to work hard up to the very edge of the holiday itself, simply to maximize profits.

Then, all goes quiet, for that one single day. Even around-the-clock operations like Walmart close for Christmas Day, and we all enjoy a collective sigh of relief as the hustle and bustle of the holiday season subsides.

Christmas is an economic driver, to be sure, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a once-a-year reminder that life is about more than “things,” even as we’re getting and giving more things than at any other time of the year.

Think about it: There are a hundred Santa movies, often with problems that prevent St. Nick from making his appointed rounds and spreading gifts all over the world, but it’s never really about the presents themselves. Have you ever seen a Christmas movie in which people found their bliss in the things they got? No. It’s always about something big, like love, family, children and giving. Even the Grinch discovered Christmas was something more than the presents and the roast beast feast down in Whoville.

Perhaps it’s the paradox of this holiday that it’s not about that which we focus most of our attention on. It’s not the gift, it’s in the giving where we find our reward.

This year, in addition to that nap on Christmas Day, I’ll also connect with those who are dearest to me. And maybe I’ll sing happy birthday to Jesus, whose life still seems like a good “reason for the season.” After all, he loved everyone, and that’s the greatest gift of all.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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