Christmas may not come on Dec. 25

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2008

If you had asked me 10 years ago what was my favorite holiday, I would have answered, “Christmas, of course.”

I was one of those people who liked the bright lights and the sounds of holiday music broadcast over shopping mall speakers. I thrived on the crowds, the wrapping paper, the Christmas tree and the holiday parties.

When the Thanksgiving turkey was finished, I expected the Christmas tree to be bursting with twinkling lights and gaudy ornaments.

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Then something happened. Maybe I grew older and less interested in the craziness of it all.

Or maybe it is that Christmas has lost its luster and its spirit by the time Dec. 25 rolls around these days.

Each year it seems that stores begin stocking up for Christmas earlier than the year before.

This year I pushed my cart past artificial trees and twinkling lights before I got to the Halloween candy.

I drove across the Mississippi River bridge before Halloween and found Vidalia crews stringing up lights for the city’s Christmas tree.

As retailers stretch the season across two-and-a-half months — almost one-quarter of the year — it is hard to keep cheering for a holiday that seems like it will never arrive.

There is this relentless build-up to the big day when people finally get to open the gifts under the tree. Yet, like a carton of milk past its due date, the holiday spirit sort of sours before Dec. 25 actually arrives. The day never lives up to the hype, it seems.

In recent days I have listened to friends and family express dismay as the symbols of the season pop up in area store windows.

Amazing, isn’t it? For a season that is about joy of Jesus’ birth, it has become a season of dread.

Yet as I curse the over-commercialization of the season I used to love as a kid, I wonder if it all might be a blessing in disguise.

Biblical scholars and historians disagree on the actual date of Jesus’ birth. There are many theories as to why Dec. 25 was designated as such.

It is believed that a Roman Catholic bishop set the date in the third century A.D. But no one knows for certain.

Maybe it is fitting that this arbitrary Christmas set by the church and artificially hyped by society, may not have ever happened on Dec. 25 at all.

Recently, a friend said that her life was too complicated to celebrate the holiday on Dec. 25, that many times she waited for the right time to fellowship with friends and family several days after the holiday. To her, it seems more relaxing and more meaningful.

Sounds good to me.

Maybe the spirit of Christmas happens at a different time each year for different people.

I remember standing on a gravel road in south Adams County looking up at the millions of stars dotting the sky. It was a couple days after Christmas. Suddenly there was a sense of peace and joy that had been missing the entire holiday for me. At that moment, I thought about shepherds in fields and wise men crossing over hills.

According to the Bible, Christmas did not happen for these groups of people at the same time — probably not the same day. It happened at the right moment for each person.

Maybe the lesson of our over-commercialized holiday is that we should live in the moment — that we should take the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving and Christmas when they happen every day.

Maybe Dec. 25 is not the real Christmas Day. Maybe Christmas happens in our hearts at any day, at any moment.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3550 or