To get it out of the way: there is no “war on Christmas.” Our Christian forebears decided to adapt the existing “pagan” Yule and Winter Solstice festivities to the celebration of the birth of Christ even though He was born in warmer weather. While Jesus is certainly my reason for the season, that is not true for everyone.
So if Jesus isn’t what Christmas is all about, then what is? Ask a dozen people and you may get two dozen answers, but there are two things at the root of the winter holiday season all over the world.
The first is simply spending time with the people you love. We have huge meals, parties, and widespread families like mine traveling sometimes long distances in order to spend a few days together. Even if it’s just a newlywed couple or a few single friends taking a day off just to hang out, the crucial thing is time – time with the people we love most, or with those who need our love the most, which leads in to the other common element that binds us.
The second universal theme is the spirit of giving, as personified by Santa Claus. “Old City Bar” (yt) from Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first album Christmas Eve and Other Stories demonstrates it really well, and as a result remains one of my favorite Christmas songs even two decades later. The album is about an angel who is sent to Earth to find something to give God to show what Jesus’ birth means to people two millennia later.
(Bit of trivia: One place he visits is war-torn Sarajevo during the events of Savatage’s Dead Winter Dead, which tells of the civil war of the early ’90s, and is the origin of TSO’s most famous song, “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”. Even if you don’t like metal, DWD is worth a listen just for its message.)
The angel finally makes his way to NYC on Christmas Eve, where a girl stands in the snow next to a payphone across the street from the titular bar. The bartender, encouraged by the angel disguised as a child, empties the register then crosses the street. After talking to the girl for a minute, he gives her the money and puts her in a cab to JFK airport. Back inside he is so changed a man that drinks are on the house for the rest of the night.
The part that makes it so special is this:
If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask
Imagine what the world would be like if we really could “make this Christmas thing last”.