Celebrating Christmas With Our Neighbors
Our Christmas communion should also be a communion with our local community.
Editor’s Note: This article was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, and is presented here in joyful anticipation of many traditional and unhampered Christmas seasons to come.
As we approach the season of good will, we are preparing to celebrate and commemorate the good will of God towards Man. “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:16). And yet we fail to do justice to the season if we fail to do justice to our neighbors. Like God Himself, we must also show good will toward men, or else we are not really getting ourselves into the Christmas spirit. We must love one another as he has loved us.
In a practical sense this means that our Christmas communion should also be a communion with our local community. We should celebrate Christmas by becoming involved in the communal celebration of Christmas in the areas in which we live. Speaking personally, the Pearce family will be attending the theater on several occasions in the weeks before Christmas. We have much from which to choose. There are local productions of perennial favorites, such as A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker, and lesser known Christmas offerings, such as Frosty, for younger children, and Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose, for children of all ages. We will plan on attending at least one concert of Christmas carols and music, performed by the local orchestra and chorale, and will do our best to line the streets of our local town for the annual Christmas parade. In so doing, we will be helping to support and revitalize local culture.
When I go out to celebrate Christmas with friends, I’ll make a point of imbibing the locally-produced craft ales and will do so in locally-owned restaurants and bars, especially those which prepare their food with locally-farmed meat and locally-grown produce. In so doing, I will be helping to revitalize the local economy, especially by supporting local small businesses, craftsmen and farmers. And having a jolly and rambunctious time while I’m at it! The veritable best of both worlds!
When I go Christmas shopping, I will try to buy gifts from locally-owned stores, being desirous of spending a little more to support my neighbors, spurning the major chain-stores with their endless array of cheaply produced trash from China. If this means that my family has fewer presents, because the gifts are more expensive, so be it. It’s about the quality of life that my purchasing power can support, not the quantity of trash that only clutters our lives with needlessly created wants.
If I buy books as Christmas gifts, I will buy them from locally-owned bookstores or directly from the publishers, spurning the convenience of Amazon, so that my purchases might better support small publishers and their authors.
We will buy our tree, a real one of course, a little later than most people, only a week or two before Christmas, from a locally-owned store, and will not decorate it until Christmas Eve, a ritual which sets our children’s eyes ablaze with the wonder of the season. After we return from Mass, the lights on the tree are turned on for the first time, with all due ceremony, much to the children’s delight; then, after the children are asleep, we will place the gifts under the tree, and fill the stockings with smaller fare. Finally, if we are not too tired, we will toast each other by the light of the tree, with a German eiswein, a little pricier than the wines we are accustomed to buying, as a Christmas treat.
Then begins the full celebration of the 12 days of the Christmas season. Each day, the figures of the three Wise Men are moved around the house, getting a little closer to the crib, placed near the tree, at which they will duly arrive at the Feast of Epiphany to join Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, and the menagerie of beasts, in the stable. On Twelfth Night we have a party at our home, inviting our friends and their children, to celebrate the culmination of the Christmas season with cacophonous joy. Finally, on the following day, the tree is stripped of all ornament and is carried outside, where it is placed vertically in the midst of kindling and logs which had been collected from the woods that surround our home. Having replenished our glasses with the final remnants of Christmas cheer, we then set the tree ablaze, a light to the world, or at least to our family and small group of friends who have gathered around the fire. As our hearts leap heavenward with the flames of the sacrificed tree we are united with the One who was born of the Virgin Mary so that he might offer Himself as a sacrifice for us on the tree of life. Truly, as Tiny Tim might say, God has blessed us every one!