No Nightmare Because of Christmas


PC110022, originally uploaded by KierDuros.

When Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas hit the screens, it very quickly became one of my all-time favorite holiday films.

Mostly because it had my favorite holiday (Halloween, in case you can’t tell) blended in with the much more popular one.

Mostly, but not entirely. The movie (if you haven’t seen it) deals with Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town (where it’s always Halloween, of course), discovering Christmas. Misunderstandings and some poor decisions happen, and, ultimately, things work out pretty well for all involved.

The main thrust of the story, like so many other Christmas-themed films, is the discovery of what “Christmas” really means.

The main thrust of the story is one of self-discovery, like so many other Christmas-themed films. The secondary theme is the discovery of what “Christmas” really means.*

For those who are some flavor of Christian, the easy answer is obvious: It celebrates the birth of Christ the Savior. For those who are devout in their Christian faith, there probably isn’t any other answer needed outside of that one.

Thing is, Christmas has become much more than that.

We probably have Macy’s and Coca Cola to blame.

See, commercial interests have done more to advance the idea of Christmas more than any official church body ever has. By pumping advertising dollars into images of Santa Clause, snowmen, and polar bears, they’ve spread the secular mythology of the holiday around the world many times over.

I was raised Catholic, so early on I was very familiar with the religious angle of things. Starting from that point, it’s kind of difficult to reconcile all the rest of the holiday hoopla. In many ways, the sacred and secular versions of Christmas are at odds with one another. That dissonance, while not spoken about much growing up, still irks me a little.

But what I’ve discovered (or decided, which may be more accurate), is that at the core of both versions of the holiday is the spirit of love, giving, and hope.

At it’s core, Christmas is about how we can all be better than we normally are–and how we should strive to be better all year long, not just on that one day.

That answer comes to us from any number of places, perhaps the most famous being the Yes, Virgina, There is a Santa Clause editorial. Propagated more by (another one of my all time favorites) Miracle on 34th Street.

These days, I tend to focus more on the deeper secular meaning of the holiday. It’s more palatable in many ways in the multi-cultural world we live in.

I can see why many on both sides of the sacred/secular divide still find it offensive that Christmas is pushed so much, but I hope that, someday, we can all be a little more accepting of the secular bits of it.

With things being as nasty as they are out there in the world, I think we can all use a little of Rudolph’s inner strength and Santa’s jolliness and Frosty’s good cheer to make things a little better for everyone.

[* Edited to clear up the film themes. Further proof I shouldn’t write when I should be sleeping.]

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