Christmas in America



Deck the halls with boughs of holly,

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Tis the season to be jolly

Fa, la la la la, la la la la

In a collection of multiple surveys from the past decade, PEW finds that 65 percent of American adults now call themselves Christian. People of Christian faith celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day (December 25) throughout the world. During Christmas, a constant sound of jingle bells and holiday tunes streams through the air. Christmas music is ubiquitous with Christmas season and goes hand in hand with the holiday theme. Music and Christmas have a symbolic relationship.Christmas music has become a momentous part of American culture.There were about 1200 songs that were translated to Spanish, German, and French from original Latin. The English Christmas carols were written in the middle ages in the 1400s. During Christmas season,everywhere one goes, whether it is a supermarket, a café, the dry cleaners, a doctor’s office, fast food place, or a shopping mall — the Christmas songs are playing non-stop. Christmas tune makes the mood of the holiday season joyous and the songs continue to bring cheers to many over the holidays.

Some of the songs are aimed to connect a gap between different genres. The tradition of singing Christmas carols at Christmas time has survived for almost two thousand years since the early Christian times.After they took over the pagan solstice celebration, Christmas carols have become the part of Christian tradition that people follow today.The traditional Christmas carols celebrate the Christian moral ideals such as kindness, goodness, generosity, and love for your neighbor and community.

In the modern days,the meaning of Christmas has greatly changed. What started as a religious holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus, has taken a new meaning by giving emphasis on its commercial significance. It seems that people are not concerned with solemn religious ceremony in celebrating the birth of Jesus. Many Christians believe that the commercialization of Christmas has somewhat ruined the meaning of the day. The holiday season has become more about exchanging gifts with family and friends and people seem very nonchalant about the ideology. Instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus, people emphasize on giving gifts, getting new and hot deals in household items like a large screen TV, i Phones, video games and diamond jewelry. Charity as the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the confusion of buying things.

The tradition of Christmas now is defined by more festive ones – buying gifts for family and friends, buying a real or artificial Christmas tree, and trimming it with fake ornaments. At Christmas time, all kinds of retail and online businesses play a significant role for Christmas to become so commercialized. Retail merchants wait for this season to offer the hottest deals in order to attract customers. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday hot deals, businesses boom during the start of Christmas season. The retailers put a lot of pressure on the consumers through their creative advertising.

People are tempted to buy the perfect box of chocolate for their friends or a diamond pendant with an engraved heart for one’s beloved.The multi-million dollar Christmas card business brings out religious Christmas cards with scripture and religious sentiments. Stores come up with creative window displays with Nativity scenes to attract customers. They recreate white Christmas in the city that passers-by will enjoy. At the same time their holiday window displays are advertising their annual sales. Inside the stores they have all kinds of beautifully wrapped gifts, figurines ranging from reindeers, three wise men, and various types of colorful lights to bring holiday cheer. The Macy’s department store in New York City has a long standing Christmas tradition to have wonderful display of window decorations. This Christmas their window decoration theme is: “Believe in the Wonder.” They are using old school ornaments and modern technology to create the story “Santa Girl,” who wishes she were Santa.

With the mass production of glass ornaments, people no longer make handmade ones to decorate their Christmas trees. Though I’ve seen some of my Christian neighbors prefer to hang the handmade little figurines their children once had made. They proudly hang these on their tree year after year. These handmade ornaments remain treasures to be passed on. Every December,when it is time to trim the Christmas tree, those neatly packed boxes come down from their attics and the whole family enjoys decorating the freshly cut tree while they reminiscence about old days.

To celebrate Christmas, parents take painstaking measures to uphold the myth that Santa Claus is real. Both parents and children have incorporated Santa and the gifts he supposedly brings as a part of celebrating the day. With the emergence of Shopping Mall Santas, Christmas has taken a whole new meaning to the children in America. By sitting on Santa’s lap children whisper what they want for Christmas. The parents standing nearby overhear their Santa wish list and try their best to fulfill. Based on the legend of Father Christmas, in most families there is a stocking with each family member’s name embroidered on it which is hung on the mantle over the fire place. From childhood, kids grow up believing that if they are good then a nice man named Santa Claus will bring them toys on Christmas Eve. Many children actually write letters to Santa Claus asking for a doll, electronic game, a kitten or a bike among many other things.

Their parents mail those letters to an imaginary North Pole Post Office address. For children, Santa Claus and the existence of Mrs. Claus are an integral part Christmas. Young children firmly believe that Santa lives there with Mrs. Claus, the elves, and the reindeers. Children specially love Rudolph the reindeer, and think on Christmas Eve Santa Claus rides his sleigh pulled by the reindeers to all the cities around the world to deliver toys for them.

Children in their innocence think that at night Santa wearing a big red suit, a black belt, black boots, and a big floppy hat shaped like a cone, comes down the chimney to leave Christmas gifts for them. Before going to bed they leave milk and cookies for Santa, and carrots for the deer and in expectation they sing,

Rudolf the Red-Nosed reindeer

Has a very shiny nose…

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,

Santa came to say,

Rudolph with your nose so bright,

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

Parents go along with this make belief game since they consider “It’s an imaginative play,” and they want their children to hold onto the belief of Christmas magic. They play tricks when they “leave a note signed ‘S. C,’ alongside some half eaten cookies.” After they drift off to sleep, the parents put little gift items called stocking stuffers in their stockings. They also wrap presents for one another and place those under the Christmas tree to be opened on Christmas morning. In the morning, children are excited to see that Santa really came down the chimney and left presents for them under the Christmas tree. In believing such myth, they miss the entire point of the Christian aspect of the holiday. In lieu of celebrating Jesus’s birthday, they are caught up in the material aspect of the holiday season.

In the context of the present day Christmas celebration, people seem to celebrate “prosperity rather than feeling emotional richness.”Though nowadays people celebrate Christmas in a different way, it is a joyous occasion for everyone. Children are very excited during the holiday season as they are not conflicted or involved in the commercial part of Christmas. They usually do not think about if Christmas actually has lost its meaning or what kind of pressure the parents go through to buy everything from Santa’s list. Overall, it is a wonderful time for them to get presents, chew on candy canes, see families, and eat hearty holiday meals, and dance to Christmas music. As they grow older, perhaps they become more aware of the commercial side of Christmas. Many start to believe that somehow the idea of Christmas has changed from the time they were children. They would rather hold onto this myth than accept that the change is really about their awareness about Christmas. People love the idea of romanticizing the notion of Christmas.This sentiment that Christmas used to be pure back in the days has been built into the fabric of this joyous season.

Since the Victorian era, buying, selling and spending have always been a part of Christmas. The holiday drive is a big deal for any city in America. The idea is to make sure that everyone can join in the spirit of the season fully. However, for the poor children and their families, the holiday season can be a very stressful time. Children often compare what toys they got for Christmas. A child will always wonder why Santa brought him only a coloring book, when he brought his friend Sam down the street an expensive toy train set.

For those under-privileged children who typically would have a bleak holiday season, area volunteers accumulate new and unwrapped gifts from many retailers and merchants. A lot of the volunteers use their own money to add more toys to the toy drive. Their service and contribution provide the children a pleasant holiday so that they don’t feel Santa for some reason skipped their house. Thinking about a child’s excitement makes giving time in volunteering very special. A lot of the area churches and community centers have their annual holiday drive to collect food and gifts as it is also the season for giving. Salvation Army sends Santas into the streets to solicit donations. Those donations pay for the holiday meals for the needy. Hundreds of volunteers get together, and sometimes I join them to help with sorting and packaging food, and wrapping presents. The volunteers also deliver food to the elderly and the disabled who are home bound and do not have family around them during the holidays.

During the Christmas season, people also show their love and caring for one another through buying and exchanging meaningful presents for spiritual richness. On Christmas morning, they gather around the fireplace in their pajamas, open presents, drink eggnog while the children chew on their candy cane and feel the love and holiday cheer. When the Christmas carolers come door to door, they sing along with them:

Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Let earth receive her king;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven and nature sing

And Heaven and nature sing…

The glories of his righteousness

And wonders of his love

And wonders of his love…

Zeenat Khan writes from Maryland, USA




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