During the twelve days of Christmas I ponder how differently people celebrate during these days. Some religious communities rehearse various stories about the birth of Jesus. But most people think about Santa Claus, bright lights, and fir trees, which have nothing to do with the Christ in the name Christmas.
The X in Xmas might be the letter chi which starts the word “christos“ in Greek. But it also serves for the unknown inspiration behind the business holiday of gifts and expensive parties and feasts. That is the American holiday, along with with snow and jingle bells.
It’s all probably about the darkest time of year and a tendency to depression then. Even the cocktail hour deals with sunset. Humans are primitive animals, needing consolation in the dark no matter how much electric light ameliorates it.
The next American holiday is New Year’s Eve. It features noise and champagne (or other intoxicants) at midnight on 12/31, followed by resolutions the next (hangover) day. Meanwhile some Christians are observing other commemorations or waiting for Epiphany on January 6 when the magi gift story is remembered.
It’s nice that all these rituals can be mixed together. Neighbors with even more different rites and stories have celebrations too. Then we can bear the coldest months drearily until Spring. Valentines will help a bit, meanwhile.