Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, and I have long thought that it is largely misunderstood. Some think it is mainly for children, but it seems to appeal not to actual children as much as to the child spirit in adults. Christmas is a celebration of the eternal, archetypal and mythic child. Some think that it is too commercial, but maybe they don’t realize that gift-giving is a perfect ritual expression of the very essence of Christmas. Some are confused about whether they should honor Christmas since they are not Christian. Yet the roots of Christmas lie far deeper than Christianity. Christmas is a religious or spiritual festival, but it comes from a religious sensibility deep in every human being, and it belongs to everyone.
Santa Claus is quite a holy figure in the deep ritual of Christmas. His name, Santa, means saint or holy person, and he embodies one of the main virtues and values of Christmas: the spirit of giving and generosity. He offers an example of how we might behave if we relaxed the narcissistic fantasy of ownership and the hoarding of money and property that is such a pillar of modern life. Christmas is a liminal time, an unusual group of days when the normal ways are turned upside down, allowing us to reassess our values. Santa teaches radical generosity and an economic system of gift-giving. Santa is not communistic or socialistic but willing to increase our care for others through attention to the child in everyone.
A few years ago I wrote a book that was published by Franciscan Media, appropriately by monks dedicated to the selfless and heart-centered philosophy of St. Francis. In this book I explore many other “symbols” of Christmas and show how anyone, no matter what beliefs or backgrounds shape them, can enjoy and deepen their appreciation for Christmas. Yes, we may become too frazzled by shopping and being suddenly connected to friends and family members. But these excesses don’t take away the essential beauty of this annual ritual that is tied closely to the short, dark days of December and the return of light.
Here is a link to purchase my book, The Soul of Christmas, which might brighten and deepen your experience of this inspirational holiday. https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/the-soul-of-christmas.