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What can you do to make Christmas a joyful celebration of Christ's birth?
How can the meaning of Emmanuel, "God with us," be made real at Christmastime?
1. Recognize at the outset that there are no quick fixes for miraculously transforming our Christmas celebrations.
Christmas commercialization is deeply ingrained in this society.
You can save yourself a lot of frustration by realizing that patience and perseverance are virtues needed in good supply for this venture.
2. Let Advent be Advent!
Use the Advent season to develop a spirituality of cultural resistance to the commercialization of Christmas.
3. Turn down the volume of commercial Christmas hoopla.
Long before Christmas arrives, the airwaves, print media, and shopping malls are saturated with messages to provide a "good" Christmas.
Restrict exposure to this propaganda by watching television less frequently, making fewer trips to malls, and getting "Christmas" catalogues out of your house.
4. Tune in to activities that are less consumption-oriented.
Set aside time in the weeks before Christmas for personal quiet time and reflection, time for family and/or friends, time to work through an Advent calendar or the Gospel Bible readings for Advent, time for making gifts at home, and time for household members to share in the pre-Christmas cleaning and cooking responsibilities.
5. Expect your religious community to provide resources and opportunities – through its church school, worship services, and outreach committees – for members looking for ways to resist the pressures of commercialization. Then, help out. Act to see that your expectation becomes reality. Consider organizing a community-wide alternative Christmas festival.
6. Take Santa Claus theology seriously.
Perpetuation of the Santa Claus myth is an issue on which people of good will can and do disagree. Many – especially young parents – struggle with this issue alone because some congregations actively perpetuate Santa Claus theology, while others say nothing. Consider recovering the St. Nicholas tradition, thereby creating new celebration traditions that do not detract from celebrating Christ's birth.
7. Rediscover creativity in gift-giving, both in what and where you buy. Recover the almost lost art of self-giving through gifts of time and skill, as well as presents made in the kitchen, workshop, or at the desk.
8. Include in your congregation and family celebrations, those who would otherwise be alone. Celebrate Christ's coming as "good news to the poor" by sharing the joy and intimacy of your Christmas with senior citizens living alone, foreign students, street people, refugees, or people who simply need hospitality.
9. Give to honor the birth of Christ.
Do a cost analysis of your spending last Christmas. How much for presents? Decorations? Travel? Food? Covenant with members of your household to take 25 percent of what you spent last Christmas and make that a "birthday gift" this Christmas. Give it to those who are working with and on behalf of the really needy.
10. Plan for Christmas.
Don’t just be defensive.
Find positive ways to react to society’s idea of the "good" Christmas:
During the summer, approach the appropriate committees in your church with ideas about how your congregation’s celebrations might fully celebrate Christ's birth.
Before Thanksgiving, write letters explaining your ideas about celebrating this year to family and friends with whom you ordinarily spend Christmas.
Begin the gifts you want to make early enough to avoid being stampeded into buying at the last minute.
Prepare your children early for an alternative Christmas. They need your help to resist the media's hard sell that begins right after Halloween.
– Reprinted from To Celebrate: Reshaping Holidays and Rites of Passage, 1987