When I was a girl, we drove up north every summer to spend a long vacation on my grandparents’ farm. It seemed to take forever to get there (it was really only a 4 hour trip) and I would pass the time by noting all the familiar sights along the way. The billboard for Santa’s Village (where you could visit Santa all year round) was near the halfway mark of our journey, so I was always pleased to see it though it struck even my ten year-old self as a silly business idea. These days we’ve all seen the “Christmas in July” marketing concept used to promote everything from parties to clearance sales.
What crass commercialism! How terribly secular! Tsk tsk–they’ve entirely missed the reason for the season. And yet, even though we’d never be so naive as to think that a retail advertising campaign was launched for altruistic reasons, could we learn something from the phrase “Christmas in July?”
My second oldest daughter looooves Christmas so much that as soon as Halloween is finished she starts playing Christmas music, just as they do at the local mall. As she was updating her playlist the other day, I asked her why she loves the Christmas season so. She said it was because people were nicer at Christmas time, and you see things during the season that you don’t see the rest of the year, like the young mom waiting at a bus stop last December who sang carols unselfconsciously to her baby. She went on: the food is good, people dress up, there’s a lot of visiting and the house is cleaner than ever.
Though I was pleased to note that none of her reasons revolved around shopping, I must admit I felt a little sheepish hearing her list. As I looked at my untidy living room and faded jeans, thought of the unspectacular dinner planned for that evening and tried to recall the last time we had company I began to feel we could use a little Christmas in July– and November, and April…
As for the “everyone’s nicer at Christmas” part, let’s look to Ebenezer Scrooge to learn that our best behaviour isn’t only for special occasions. It’s evident that in learning how to keep Christmas properly, he also learned to keep the other 364 days of the year well. We know from Dickens’ description of his most famous character’s conversion that “He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
How do we bring that spirit of Christmas every day into our own homes? Of course it doesn’t mean serving stuffed turkey and four different vegetables on a school night any more than Scrooge’s change of heart meant that he sent the biggest turkey in the shop over to the Cratchit house daily (what an inconvenience that would pose for Mrs. Cratchit on a regular working day).But we can take a little extra care over the preparation of a weeknight meal, make sure everyone sticks to their manners, and invite someone to join us at table a little more often.
We can smile more, and sing to our little ones, even in public, even in February! We can phone and talk to family and friends, or send a handwritten note. We can make sure we don’t forget about the local food bank outside of holidays. We can set time aside to pray with our children and talk to them about Jesus every day, even after the nativity set has been packed away again.
In short, we can live our day to day lives with the serenity of those who know why Christmas is important– that it celebrates the Incarnation of Our Lord, who won for us salvation. Then we will truly bring joy to the world– all year round.
Michelle Martin writes from Hamilton, Ontario.