Christmas—what is it? Look up the dictionary and it will say: “A legal holiday celebrated on Dec. 25 and an occasion for exchanging gifts.” So, according to the dictionary, it is about presents. I mean, why else do people flock the stores during Black Friday to buy gifts? Why else is the most anticipating time of Christmas the moment you get to open your presents? Why else are the wrappings and bow ties so delicate and fancy?
The aspect of gifts seems to as well dominate many Christmas stories. Santa—he delivers gifts. Frosty—in the end, the antagonist gives in because he wants gifts. Grinch—he tries to take away gifts but realizes he’s wrong. Same with The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Nutcracker, and other stories—just gifts, gifts, gifts. As a result, I grew up believing that the meaning of Christmas laid underneath all those gift wrappings. The meaning of Christmas had to be gifts.
The Christmas Carol is, as well, no exception from this theme of presents.
I remember in 7th grade, my English teacher made us read The Christmas Carol. I was shocked—I had read the story before during elementary school, so why was a middle school teacher making us read this? The plot was fairly simple for any little kid to understand. A cranky old guy named Scrooge hates giving presents and is very egocentric. During the night before Christmas, he sleeps and encounters three ghosts: one of the past, present, and future. With each ghost, Scrooge goes through many experiences, and by the time he leaves the last ghost, he realizes that it’s better to be nice and give gifts. Moral of the story? Give gifts. Seriously. This was just like any naive children’s book with “inspiring” generic messages like “Believe in yourself” or “Never give up.”
By this time, I wasn’t even bothering with the story in class. I knew all there was to know. I mean, after all, this is just another dumb children’s tale, I thought to myself.
Turns out I was the dumb one myself. After reading the story, our teacher made us watch the Tim Burton’s movie version of The Christmas Carol, and suddenly, what seemed pathetic on paper became heart-stirring on screen. The words on paper came to life. The symbolism, the imagery, the contrast, but most importantly, the raw feelings one could get from it—the frustration Scrooge felt, the intense sadness of the poor, and the joy when Scrooge corrects his wrongs—all of that connected with me intensely.
So I realized that the greatest gift is the spirit of giving itself. But let me define what this “spirit” is—it is the very feeling of joy that one experiences when helping out others. It is also the very hole in one’s heart when one sees people in need. It is the very ecstasy I felt when I saw Scrooge, a sinful man, change and develop into a better character. In other words, it is feeling itself—the type that bonds one with another. That is Christmas.
It is a bit ironic that the whole time I was reading The Christmas Carol without feeling—without Christmas itself. Only through the movie could I feel it. Had I read the story with more emotion instead of regarding it as dumb, I would have perhaps felt the connection from the first instance. However, just like Scrooge, I changed for the better. From my materialistic view of Christmas, I finally saw the emotional value behind it.
Each gift you will get during Christmas is like the story The Christmas Carol. Initially, I saw it as just as story, and so can you see your gift as simply a gift. But to truly understand Christmas, don’t just view it as a gift, but try to see the emotional meaning behind it, the love and effort made, just like how I saw the emotional connection from the movie.
Too many times in our daily lives, whether it is a story or a gift, we miss out on this emotional connection. We usually take things at face value, not realizing a deeper level behind everything that we encounter. Christmas is the time to remember that a gift is more than a gift, that a story is more than the words one see, that one’s family is more than just the people it comprises of. Christmas, once again, is the emotion and feeling between people. Once we realize this we can truly appreciate and understand the meaning of Christmas.