It's the means, not the ends, that makes Christmas merry

It’s the means, not the ends, that makes

The Issue: All the work leading up to the big day can make Christmas seem disappointing.

Our View: Relying less on convenience can make the work more meaningful.

CARLINVILLE (Dec. 21, 2017) – Christmas isn’t as easy as it used to be. While there are many modern conveniences that make things like baking and shopping easier, it seems people are finding less joy in Christmas traditions many hold dear.

We live in an era where people have become oddly touchy about the way Christmas is celebrated. On one hand, there are those who are against municipalities putting up nativity scenes on public property in an effort to keep state separate from church, while on the other, there are those who are outright against the use of “happy holidays” as an acceptable seasonal greeting even though the word “holiday” comes from the Old English equivalent of “holy day.”

Between the two extremes, a lot of what we used to look forward to seems to be missing. There was a time when hunting for the perfect Christmas tree was a family event. People would venture out into the woods,  or at least to the local tree farm, to track down the perfect Christmas tree. That tree would be decorated by ornaments that were likely hand made. Now, it’s more likely the tree comes from a box in the attic and gets decorated by ornaments purchased at the nearest discount superstore.

While there are still plenty of bakers out there, their numbers are declining. After all, why put all that effort into making dozens upon dozens of cookies that require several hours of hard work as one mixes, bakes, packages and cleans the giant mess made while creating them? There are plenty of bakeries out there and one can easily purchase prepared cookie dough at the grocery store.

There was a time when families would pile into the car and spend an evening or more driving through their communities viewing the homes with outdoor decorations. Even through there are still people who like to view Christmas lights, today’s displays are less original than they once were. Inflatables and projected light designs seem to have taken over most yards and homes.

More and more, Christmas has become a holiday of convenience. Although it’s understandable that people would want to spend less time working and more time with loved ones, the effort that once went into preparing for Christmas was a big part of what brought people together. Generations of a family would get together and share in all the baking and cooking. Those hours spent hanging all those decorations and lights, and even the time spent driving around looking at them, was often quality time during which good conversations could be had. Indeed, preparing for those merry times was just as valuable as the merry making itself.

One often hears people speak of Christmas going by so quickly. Perhaps it seems that way because so little joy is taken in preparations leading up to the big day. Some of the most meaningful Christmas traditions don’t have anything to do with getting up early to open presents then spending the rest of the day eating. Maybe if we appreciated the time it took to do some of the basics many of us have put aside for the sake of convenience, we would appreciate the benefit of lingering over a string of popcorn or a handmade greeting card.

Taking some time to live in the moment rather than rushing through a checklist of things to get done by Monday might just be what we need to slow the clock and appreciate the time leading up to the big day.