The Meaning of Christmas

Note: I have lots of things that help keep alive the memory of my grandmother — pictures, dried flower arrangements, and boxes of things that were dear to her. But nothing makes me think of her more than reading the words she wrote while working as an editor at her college paper in Catawba, N.C. I’m so glad she tucked some of her published articles away to be cherished by future generations.

Grandma graduated from college in 1932 and became a teacher. It’s amazing that, although these words were written more than eighty-five years ago, they still ring true. I hope you enjoy “Christmas Spirit” by Anita Rouzer Lower.

Christmas Spirit

Just a few more days, and we’ll all be leaving Catawba for the holidays. Some of us will hurry to our homes, anxious to see the folks again and be with them. Others will go to visit friends and exchange the Christmas spirit. Still others will spend part of the time on a basketball tour, winning more laurels for Catawba and themselves.

But what is Christmas? The merriest day, the saddest day, the day that you are happiest over all you have had, the day that your heart aches most for all that you have missed or have had and lost—that’s Christmas. The day that rouses in you all that is generous and tolerant and kindly, the day that wearies you with sentimentality and disappointment and despair—that’s Christmas.

It is the time when you take pleasure in receiving and rejoice in giving gifts. But there are those who try to show their love and appreciation so much more than their pocket books will afford. They measure their ability to be generous in dollars, whereas there are a hundred things any of us would prefer to the most expensive jewel; the promise of a hundred smiles throughout the year to come, the pledge from a chronic worrier to stop fretting, the assurance from a secretive person that he will share the troubles that otherwise might lead to a baffling, tormenting behavior.

These are not gifts for Christmas? No, I’ll grant you they cannot be wrapped in gay papers and tied with tinsel cord, but they will outlast any material human hands can create and occasion deeper joy than the most precious article that ever was displayed in a shop window. Of course, they cannot be conferred with one grand gesture on Christmas day. They must be delivered on appropriate occasions during the year. But might not that be an excellent way of easing up on the intensity of this one great fling of giving which so often engulfs us?

What a Christmas this would be for the whole world if every one of us would wrap up that secret worry, that canker of resentment, that bit of black depression, that impatience, malice or hatred which we have carried around, willingly or unwillingly, with us for so long. And, having wrapped it up, that we should place it at the feet of the Christ Child and go away and leave it there to be transformed into a priceless offering of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation. And if in that same secret altar place of our hearts we should lay down the bits of patience, kindness, and gentleness we should like to pass on to others all this year that they too may be magnified and glorified by contact with our highest sense of good. To do this would be a celebration worthy of the One whose anniversary it is. To do this would bring to ourselves joy and satisfaction and peace.

For Christmas is to each of us just what we make it.


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