America should embrace Christmas as a time of joy
There is plenty going on in the world of politics: The shouting match between the President, Speaker-elect Pelosi and Cryin’ Chuck; Migrant caravan; Mueller investigation; Comey testimony; Obamacare court ruling; French fuel tax riots; and the list goes on. While these are all important issues, I would like to spend our Sunday morning this week to talk about Christmas.
While over 160 countries around the world have the day off for Christmas, celebrations vary from one country to another. In Europe, Christmas Markets are very festive and joyous. Streets are turned into pedestrian malls with Christmas music and lights. Cathedrals and city halls are decorated to reflect the Christmas spirit. If you are not in the Christmas spirit, rest assured, these markets will get you into it. In Amsterdam, the light festival has artists creating spectacular light displays. The light displays along with the reflections from the canals are a sight to behold. In Australia, city squares and government buildings are decorated with Christmas lights. In South America, where the population is mostly Catholic, Christmas is celebrated with the lighting of trees (not necessarily coniferous ones) along with their unique Christmas cuisine.
Even countries not considered Christian celebrate Christmas. Close to 90% of the population of Indonesia is Muslim but Christmas is one of the most popular holidays. Indonesians decorate public places for Christmas, using cotton to imitate snow. In Hong Kong, Christians constitute around 10% of the population, yet the central square in Kowloon peninsula (where I happened to be last week) had a huge Christmas tree in the rear with several small Christmas trees leading the path to the big tree. Fully lit Christmas trees graced several other downtown areas.
In America, 95% of Americans in a 2016 survey stated their intention to celebrate Christmas. This year, US retail sales are expected to top $1 trillion for the first time. Shoppers in the US spend an average of $900 per person on Christmas gifts, compared to $321 in the UK and $252 in Spain, the top two countries in Europe (Source: Statista). With the increased focus on gift-giving comes increased stress. Perhaps, it is time for a no-gift pact or at least for some restrictions on gifts.
Unfortunately, for some Americans, Christmas is also the most difficult time of the year. Some have lost their loved ones and this may be their first Christmas without that person. In other cases, loneliness and a lack of sense of belonging may lead to depression. According to a survey by health care provider Cigna, each generation in America is more lonelier than the previous generation. It is important for us to be considerate towards those who may be going through tough times.
One final point: In recent weeks, I have seen columns about how politics is splitting families at Christmas dinners. I would like to draw your attention to the Christmas of 1914. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, French, German and British soldiers in the middle of World War I came out of their trenches into no man’s land to talk to each other, swap food, exchange souvenirs and hold joint burial ceremonies. If those men in the middle of a war can set aside nationalities and celebrate Christmas in the battlefield, so can we as Americans at the dining table. Merry Christmas!!!