The commercializing of Christmas offends many—so many, in fact, that major corporations have sponsored endless movies and television shows bemoaning the…commercializing of Christmas. (One can see the trend at least as far back as Miracle on 34th Street, a movie released in 1947.)
“Christmas isn’t just about food and drink and gifts!” cry the actors in between advertisements for food and drink and gifts. “It’s about—” well, what?
Generic good things, usually: love, peace, family, light, quiet, and snow. But the true meaning of Christmas shouldn’t be buried under this nice, soft blanket of platitudes. Christmas isn’t about goodness-in-general. In fact, Christmas is very…Jewish.
Despite the beauty of Christina Rossetti’s poem, the first Christmas didn’t occur amid a bleak winter. The wise men, T. S. Eliot and Lancelot Andrewes notwithstanding, likely didn’t have a “cold coming” in the worst part of the year. And there weren’t Christmas trees alit with candles, and Yule logs, and holly and ivy—all artifacts of northern European folklore.
No, Christmas came very Jewishly, in the Middle East, as the Gospel according to Matthew shows us (in chapter two). It came to the particular Jewish town of Bethlehem, known as “the city of David.”
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