House Call with Carol Hughes

The best parts of Christmas haven’t changed much at all

On Remembrance Day when we pay special attention to our veterans you may hear the phrase, “every day should be Remembrance Day,” and there is a lot of truth behind that sentiment. That’s because of the struggles many veterans face throughout the entire year and the way those issues cannot gain the same wide-spread support that veterans receive on November 11. With that sentiment in mind, perhaps we should consider how every day should be Christmas Day as well. Not to say that every day should be a holiday, but rather that the good will and understanding people afford others around Christmas could do a lot to solve some of the problems we face throughout the year.

It is one time of the year that people consistently show the best of themselves. There are armies of volunteers working on behalf of food banks, shelters, service groups, and all manner of community organizations. It is a time of giving and paying attention to those less fortunate. It is a time when people allow themselves to see they are part of something bigger that goes beyond any differences that may be perceived or real. In that respect, it truly is a magical time of year.

Many of the best-known stories related to Christmas deal with themes such as pining for simpler times and the importance of family or community, but a lot of them also deal with poverty, injustice, caring, and giving. Perhaps most famous is Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ which shows the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, being able to cast aside his miserly concerns as he undergoes a life-changing transformation and is finally able to enjoy people for who they are. O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’ features a young married couple whose desire to please each other with appropriate gifts takes an ironic twist as the story helps us understand the nature of sacrifice and giving.

Even children’s classics take the opportunity to show us that we can always strive to be more. Consider ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’ who perseveres and teaches us that differences can be strengths after suffering at the hands of the other reindeer who bullied him over appearances. Hans Christian Anderson’s classic, ‘The Little Match Girl,’ reminds us to appreciate what we have and be both thankful and charitable.

While how we celebrate Christmas has changed considerably, these themes have survived. They speak to a sentiment that challenges us to the best we can. In an age increasingly defined by public arguments and outrage it is encouraging to see that there is still room in the Christmas season to put aside our differences and work to address the needs of others.

It’s not surprising either. The holidays also are a time of family, which can mean different things to different people. Some of our most challenging relationships can be with those we love the most. But the Christmas season allows us to put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. This happens societally as well. That is why every day should be Christmas Day. When we allow ourselves to see that we have more in common than we do differences. When we concern ourselves about the well-being of all members of our communities, we are showing our very best. It seems to me that is the real spirit of Christmas and something we can strive to show more of throughout the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!