Christmas is a feeling, more than anything. Whether or not we celebrate the date of Jesus’ birth in the right month (we don’t) or if the Bible describes the scene correctly (most theologians say it doesn’t), we want to feel happy and in a giving mood at this time of year.
Christmas decorations and lights help with this–they’re like a "switch" that turns on all the good feelings we’ve had at Christmases past. I have friends who create a beautifully decorated tree every year, but I’m a "Grinch" who doesn’t even put one up anymore.
I gave all my ornaments to our kids–including the ones I made by hand to hang on the avocado tree we grew from a pit in our first New York City apartment, because we couldn’t afford either a tree or decorations for it.
I never send out Christmas cards and don’t much like to get them. I did send out valentines one year, and got a surprisingly warm reaction.
When we were living in San Antonio, the latest thing to have was a "Christmas tree closet," where you kept a fully decorated fake tree. You just wheeled it out every year and plugged it in, then tucked it away again after New Years.
Why does this seem like cheating?
I heard the most wonderful story on NPR radio the other day–in fact, it brought tears to my eyes. The announcer was doing a piece on the volunteers who come to the White House to decorate every Christmas. He held his mike up to two guys and said, "So, you’re both from Oregon. Are you friends?" and got a big surprise.
One of them said, "No, we’re partners, and I’m in the Oregon National Guard, and since ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has ended, I can come out now." The announcer stammered a little, then took his mike over to the pianist who was playing Christmas carols.
I don’t have a wreath on my door, but let me tell you, THAT brought out the latent Christmas spirit in me. I thought, "We can’t EVER let this country go back to those bad old days!"