Sunday, December 25, 2022
America's Christmas 2022
Merry Christmas my friends!
While we all know full well that Americans in the Old West of the 1800s lived day-to-day lives that were completely different than ours today, our Christmas traditions, customs, and festivities are a lot alike.
Believe it or not, the Old West was not very different than what takes place today. In fact, many of our Christmas traditions and customs started with the flood of different people from around the world with almost everyone adding a little something that was unique to their place of origin. Over the years, during every phase of our history, especially after the Civil War, the vast majority of Americans have indeed created a specialness to how we Americans celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, Americans took to celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior as Americans do most things. We gave Christmas our own touch of American customs. One thing that made us different is that Americans over the years refused to observe Christmas as some ultra-solemn act that should only be observed by requiring formality and carried out according to certain pre-established rules -- all respecting strict protocol. Rules? Really, rules? Americans traditionally hate rules. That's part of who we are as a people.
So yes, we can all be extremely thankful that America's Christmas traditions and customs did not follow the English Puritan view of Christmas. To the English Puritans who established New England, Christmas was seen as being a "pagan ritual," a "corrupt religious ritual." They did not celebrate December 25th because they saw it as just another work day -- unless it fell on the Sabbath.
Americans instead viewed Christmas as a birthday party meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We have traditionally accepted Christmas with open hearts. And from this, even in the Old West, Christmas trees were decorated, gift-giving was already an old American custom, and Christmas stockings waited to be filled with goodies. There were dances, feasts, parties, and even plays to reenact the birth of Christ.
From sending Christmas cards, and enjoying family-oriented days of fun, games, reminiscing, and feasting, while celebrating the birth of Jesus, to noting the appearance of Santa Claus, Americans in the Old West were a lot like us. At the time, Americans also went to church and parents read the Bible to their children on Christmas Eve as many do today. Many read the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, just as many do today.
While in those days, it wasn't unusual to read a recent letter from a relative far away or share good tidings with everyone there, today we do email or maybe this thing called "face time." Yes, all for the same for all the same reasons, to share the joy and be close to those we love. Like us, Christmas was a day to live the closeness that comes with being with family and dear friends.
Now, before someone writes to tell me that we can't compare the comfort and gift buying of today with the mostly meager, humble, homemade Christmases of long ago, those who lived in harsh environments of years ago, I assure you that I'm not doing that. I'm talking about how we today, even after being slammed with terrible blizzards and savage frigid cold winds which are extremely similar to the Tragic Winter of 1886 that killed hundreds of thousands of cattle in the Great Plains, will still celebrate Christmas.
Today, thousands are fighting the elements and the frigid cold temperatures. In America, over 100,000 Americans die each year from the cold -- whereas, usually less than 3,000 Americans die from the heat per year.
Winter kills. And yes, while Christmas for many in the Old West was a difficult time, today we have millions of Americans stranded and spending their entire Christmas without heat to stay warm or power to cook. Like those in the Old West though, my bet is that Americans who are determined to keep the spirit of Christmas alive will do so.
That's what Americans do. For those without utilities and in need of help, I know that their Christmas may be meager and humble, a little more homemade, and maybe improvised. But, it will be Christmas. And to that spirit, that of the Holy Spirit, I believe that power outages and "once in a generation" blizzards can't stop even those Americans from feeling the Holy Spirit this Christmas.
And while my prayers are with those fighting the cold, I wish them and you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Especially you, Benny! Merry Christmas!