"'Tis the season to be jolly." "Peace on earth, good will toward men," to mention just one essence of the Christmas holiday season.
Christmas has come to reflect more than just a celebration of the birth of Christ. As Christian celebrants have made it a hopeful, joy filled season, people who are not Christians are appreciating the spirit of the holiday. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy a season of good will to everyone. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy seeing people eagerly determined to make the best of their circumstances for the season.
Methinks the gripe with Christmas of most non-believers is they don't like the fact that it generates such exuberance with so many, and they feel left out. It's a little like me, a Swede on St, Patrick's day, finding the only solution is to get a green hat and join them. Everyone is Irish for the day.
Christmas has really become a general public holiday that dominates the early winter season. The story of Christmas always tells of the three kings who brought gifts to the new child. I assume this is where the tradition started where parents or "Santa" bring gifts to the children today.
I remember a Christmas during the great depression of the early '30s. I was only about 4 years old. My older brother and I each got a flashlight. We were thrilled going into the closet where it was dark, and holding our flashlights behind the comic strip in the Sunday paper, creating the illusion of colored slides. We thought we were making movies. I recall an equally happy Christmas about four years later where we each got a harmonica and a new pair of overhauls. We lived in the country, and I recall walking down the country road in the snow with my brother, in our new overhauls playing our harmonicas. We were making sweet music.
The missionaries of atheism have been battling religion and Christmas for many years. The opening statement of the first amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." They always cite the first phrase but you never hear anyone quote the second half about not "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Perhaps Christians have just become too good about turning the other cheek.
As our understanding of existence slowly grows, through our ever increasing intellectual growth in the sciences, and our understanding the laws of existence, we have a good chance of actually achieving peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. The human mind is very elastic. It can create geniuses or monsters. Our present folly of thinking freedom of choice means that we should not discipline our children can lead to upheaval. What is education, if it is not learning discipline? An undisciplined mind is a lunatic.
My wife and I raised six children, so Christmas always brought a lot of excitement. I remember getting up early and positioning myself carefully out of the way with my 35mm camera to take photos of the kids as they came rushing to the tree to claim their goodies. As a boy I had to earn the money to buy myself a bicycle, so it gave me a special good feeling the year we were able to give our three older boys each a bicycle on Christmas morning.
My good wife always assumed the task of cooking a Christmas dinner for our entire family, including both sets of grandparents and the six kids, It made for a joyful Christmas day. We set our places at dinner around a huge ping pong table. Now, our children are all over the country, and we rarely see them. Our youngest daughter has a nice family in Amherst, and we rely on her for what family gatherings we have at holidays. We now fill the role of the "Ghosts of Christmas past." "Joy to the World!"
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org