During the month of December, we often awaken to frost on our windows and icicles dripping from the eaves.  We bundle up against the cold.   Darkness shortens our days.  Rich and poor alike enjoy a warm fire and a hot cup of cider.  We draw together, taking comfort from each other, which is probably the reason winter holidays came about in the first place. Our pagan ancestors worshipped the sun, and in mid-winter on December 25 celebrated Deus Sol Invictus.    In 350 AD, Pope Julius I, usurped this date, proclaiming December 25, the official celebration day for the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas).      Although Christmas is sacred to  Christians,  it has become a secular holiday both at home and  to many around the world.  

In Argentina, they decorate the boots of Father Christmas with red and white flowers, hold huge feasts, exchange gifts at midnight, and set off fireworks. In the Marshall Islands they hold song and dance competitions, enjoy feasts and have piñatas   containing little presents for the children. In Iceland, they celebrate the Christmas Book Flood.  On Christmas Eve they exchange books and spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.


In the USA, we are consumed with holiday bazaars, tree lighting, TV specials, Santa Claus photos, decorating the house, baking cookies, preparing for the feast, and, shopping for toys and holiday duds for the “kiddies” and ourselves.   The gods of the marketplace set our Christmas priorities. So what if we go into debt, and the toy breaks two days after Christmas. As the song says, “Christmas is the happiest season of all!”  If going broke is the price we must pay, so be it.

Unfortunately, there are some of us  already so broke we can’t  pay.…. One year about a week before Christmas I was working in the Northeast Emergency Food Bank & Clothing Center.  After picking up his groceries, a man came into the Clothing Center where I sat behind a desk  He asked if we had any clothes for boys aged 7 and 9.  I showed him where they were located.  He spotted two jackets and then selected some jeans, shirts, and sweaters.  Eyeing a pile of socks,  he looked at me questioningly.  “Help yourself”, I said.

“I don’t suppose you have any toys?” he asked.  When people making donations to the Clothing Center cleared out their closets and cupboards, they occasionally threw in a few toys.  I pointed him to a large box.  He found a soccer ball, a Monopoly game that still had most its parts and a couple of books.     As he gave me his items to be counted and bagged, he said “Lady, you have made my kids’ Christmas! In the food pantry, I got a chicken and everything for our dinner and now there will be presents, too. “  He paused.  “They gave me one of the left-over trees.  I don’t suppose you’ve got ornaments?” he laughed.  As a matter of fact we did. I pulled out a box of shiny balls from under a table.  He took my hand, and said, “Thank you!” a tear welling in his eye.  I found tears in my eyes too.  In that moment, on a cold, rainy day, in the basement of a church, among people too poor for the marketplace, a spirit of joy claimed our hearts. Because of the generosity of others, who were in fact strangers to the man and his two sons,  Christmas did become “the happiest season of all.”  B. Gregg.