For the more than two billion Christians across the world, today is the holiest of the holiest. Christmas Day, when people of Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Quaker and Seventh-day Adventist background celebrate the birth of the son of God, Jesus Christ, wishing for peace and prosperity.
I read a quote online recently that was used to describe Christmas: “Three phrases that sum up Christmas are: peace on earth, good will to men and batteries not included”. A rather tongue-in-cheek view of what is known as “the silly season”, the line touches on a sentiment that inevitably comes up year after year: that Christmas these days is more about how many gifts are under the tree rather than wishing for peace on earth.
Every year, Christmas is derided for descending into a huge capitalist feeding frenzy, with shopping malls across the world receiving far more visitors (and patronage) than churches. St Nicholas may have been a real person but the commonly-accepted avatar of a jolly fat man dressed in red with a white beard was popularised by Coca Cola and the tradition of gathering the family at Christmas is often lampooned in popular culture. With families taking out bank loans to buy gifts and the Japanese traditionally queuing outside Kentucky Fried Chicken for some Christmas poultry, it’s easy to see why some people view Christmas as a farce that has morphed from its humble, more altruistic roots.
With approximately 25 million Christians in India, Christianity does not rank as one of the most followed religions in the country yet the hallmarks of Christmas celebrations (in the secular sense) are evident in some parts: restaurants offer special five course meal Christmas events, media outlets detail new ways to celebrate Christmas and Christmas trees pop up sporadically across the country.
The ideal gift: your time
In our globalised world, the “Christmas brand”, so to speak, is incredibly pervasive. But what of the message of “peace on earth and good will to all men”? Well, that seems to get lost in translation. Or something. The emphasis these days is on the giving of gifts. Perhaps the giving of time is a more appropriate idea. As in, the volunteering of time to a person, persons or cause in need. Wishing for peace on earth is good (and VITAL) but to borrow from the old adage of “think global, act local”, sometimes we can affect the most change by concentrating our efforts on our surroundings. Need tips on how and where to volunteer? We put together a guide which details all manner of ways you can donate your time in the name of bringing “good will to men”.
Translating these acts into the everyday, initiatives such as the Kindness Revolution and the Global Sharing Economy are built on the philosophy of putting the wallet away and freely giving our services or belongings while the Twitter hashtag topic #bekind encourages people to post random acts of kindness that they’re planning or have been the recipient of.
The birth of Jesus Christ may be a wholly Christian ideology and the over-stuffed consumerism that accompanies modern-day Christmas time is not something that needs celebrating but the spirit of giving and wishing for a more peaceful planet? That’s something that everyone, regardless of age, religion and background can get behind.
For the jaded among us (or the unacquainted), here is a list of Christmas stories that fit the “Christmas spirit” bill so perfectly, your heart is guaranteed to melt/burst/glow/do whatever it is that hearts do on their own when confronted with overwhelming happiness. Batteries not even needed.
- Soldiers on opposing sides during World War I called a 24 hour truce on Christmas Day.
- One family (cousins, aunts, uncles and all) pooled all their Christmas funds in order to build a safe drinking water well in Somalia for numerous families.
- Operation Christmas Drop where US air force soldiers deliver Christmas presents to the children living on the islands of Micronesia via plane.
- One family's tradition of donating to charity in lieu of purchasing presents inspired people to set up the charities The White Envelope Project, which encourages people to donate to charity at Christmas, and Giving 101 which aims to educate young people about the importance of giving and selfless deeds.
Want to join in the spirit of giving but don't have time to volunteer with a charity? Why not donate to one of our partner projects? RESET accepts no intermediary fees, meaning 100 percent of your donation goes where its needed most.
Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial