Certainly one of my great heroes is C.S. Lewis, who, as providence would have, died on the very same day as J.F.K., but whose parting was not nearly as scrutinized as that of our young President. Our former Asbury student, Ben deVan, now teaching away in the Old North State (i.e. N.C.) has assembled a Christmas essay offering excerpts from Lewis. It was so good, I have decided to post it here. Enjoy.
"WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS TO ME" from GOD IN THE DOCK --
Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is
highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business.
I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.
1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.
2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?
3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?
4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.
We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.
THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, p. 19:
"The White Witch? Who is she?
"Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It's she that makes
it always winter and never Christmas; think of that!"
"How awful!" said Lucy.
COMPANION TO NARNIA by Paul Ford:
Father Christmas -- A huge, bearded man in a bright red robe whose appearance
signals the end of the Hundred Years of Winter, during which time "it was
always winter but Christmas never came." He is "big and glad and real," not
just funny and jolly like the Father Christmas or Santa Clause we know in the
modern world. He brings gifts...tools, not toys...In an interesting parallel
to the White Witch, Father Christmas too arrives in a sleigh pulled by
reindeer, but he is there to tell them that Aslan is on the move, the spring
will come again, just as Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of
Christ. Father Christmas is a hieroglyph of the joy that Aslan brings.
"On Christmas Day, C. S. Lewis joined the church" --
LETTERS TO AN AMERICAN LADY, p. 50
"I feel exactly as you do about the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas. I send no cards and give no presents except to children."