There is in the UK, and possibly elsewhere, at least one TV channel, ITV4 (there could be more of which I don’t know), that very proudly during this season proclaims to be “Christmas free”.
The people at the top of that channel must think it’s a unique trait: in fact all or nearly all television is Christmas free.
It may show various things traditionally associated with Christmas, but nothing about Christmas.
Christmas is purely and simply the Nativity of Jesus Christ, no more (excuse me if some may consider it too little) and no less.
It’s not decorated trees, many-coloured lights flashing or not, presents, shopping, eating too much of the wrong food, drinking in excess, snow with or without sleighs pulled by flying reindeer, elves, and definitely not an elderly, slightly obese gentleman wearing a brightly red costume.
There is very little on television programmes that is even vaguely reminiscent of the event which is being celebrated.
In this case, one must hope that the TV doesn’t always necessarily reflect the true interests of its viewers so much as it endeavours to increase the profits of its advertisers.
Maybe there are those who’d say that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in endless rehashing of different adaptations may come close to expressing the true so-called “Christmas spirit”.
But it’s a bit difficult to have the Christmas spirit without Him after Whom the festivity is named (a hint: the part of its name that precedes “mas”).
Goodness, love for others, charity, munificence, generosity are not Christmas values or Christian inspirations per se, without the presence of the Son of God.
Dickens’ famous novella A Christmas Carol has not even one mention of the word “Christ”.
In fact I suspect that Dickens, about whose Christianity there are reasonable doubts, may have contributed to initiating the tradition of a Christmas without Christ.
A lot of self-describing Christmas movies and telefilms switch the faith in Jesus for the “faith” in Santa Claus, making the whole story revolve around whether one can maintain in adulthood his childish, naïve and morally innocent belief in Father Christmas, as if it were a sort of magic figure: this is, rather than the much-touted “spirit of Christmas”, the spirit of the age, our age.
Yes, because in our age the two beliefs, in the Christian God and in Santa Claus, are considered equally absurd.
So, the film makers must think, since we must give up the idea that any rational person can believe in God, we’ll have to replace it with another incredible tenet like the reality of Santa, which is at least more cuddly and comfy, and is good for showbiz and the market machine alike.
I’ll conclude with the words of the Italian author Roberto Pecchioli. which sum all up beautifully: “we are celebrating the Birth in the absence of the one who was born”.
It is as if in France or in the USA, where they have beloved national holidays – which Italy lacks, a date which unites all the random inhabitants of the Belpaese [as Dante called it, “the Beautiful Country”] -, 14 July or 4 July were celebrated without showing the flag, avoiding both naming the homeland and singing the national anthem. This is Christmas in the time of the new gods, consumption, market, holidays.
Christmas is the feast of the Absent one, the child from Bethlehem from whose birth we measure time.