Katharine Elizabeth Whitehorn CBE, a British journalist, writer, and columnist, once wrote, “From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.” She’s probably correct. Holidays are windfalls for manufacturers and retailers. Of all the western holidays, Christmas stands alone when it comes to its commercial impact. The National Retail Federation estimates that this year November and December sales (excluding autos, gas, and restaurant sales) will amount to $616.9 billion. [“Optimism Shines as National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 4.1%,” by Kathy Grannis (@NRFKathy) and Treacy Reynolds (@treacyreynolds), National Retail Federation, 7 October 2014] We all know, of course, that the holiday season has its genesis in religious celebrations. Dave Barry writes, “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice. [“Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide“] He continues:
“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukka’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukka!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ These days, people say ‘Season’s Greetings,’ which, when you think about it, means nothing. It’s like walking up to somebody and saying ‘Appropriate Remark’ in a loud, cheerful voice. But ‘Season’s Greetings’ is safer, because it does not refer to any actual religion. Some day, I imagine, even ‘Season’s Greetings’ will be considered too religious, and we’ll celebrate the Holiday Season by saying ‘Have a nice day.'”
Barry certainly has plenty of reasons to be cynical this time of year; but, the holiday season does radiate a different feeling and it brings out the best of us if we’re paying attention. Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) captured that thought in his book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! He wrote:
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! … Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!'”
The late Edgar Albert Guest, a prolific English-born American poet, once wrote a poem entitled “At Christmas.” I believe that poem captures what I’m trying to say. Guest wrote:
A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season is here;
Then he’s thinking more of others than he’s thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime.
When it’s Christmas man is bigger and is better in his part;
He is keener for the service that is prompted by the heart.
All the petty thoughts and narrow seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he’s seeking is the glory of a smile.
Then for others he is toiling and somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas he is almost what God wanted him to be.
If I had to paint a picture of a man I think I’d wait
Till he’d fought his selfish battles and had put aside his hate.
I’d not catch him at his labors when his thoughts are all of pelf,
On the long days and the dreary when he’s striving for himself.
I’d not take him when he’s sneering, when he’s scornful or depressed,
But I’d look for him at Christmas when he’s shining at his best.
Man is ever in a struggle and he’s oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that’s in him is the master of the good,
But at Christmas kindness rules him and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don’t know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas man is almost what God sent him here to be.
From all of us at Enterra Solutions®, have a very merry Christmas.