C.S. Lewis of Narnia/ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe fame, was actually very devout religiously. In reading the Narnia series, while initially one may think he is inventing a separate religion with Aslan as a god, you realize in completing the series that the stories are actually tied in with Christianity with YHWH (God) represented by Aslan. When he is killed on the stone table by the Witch and her minions, it represents the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross and the rising from the grave. The final battles, of course, represent the end times and the large battles where good overcomes evil in Revelations.
A little over 50 years ago C.S. Lewis published an essay in which he transposed the word, Britain, to create a group of people he called the Niatirbs, who celebrated what he called “Exmas” instead of “Crissmas.” An excerpt from that essay:
“In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound, (the Niatirbians) have a great festival called Exmas, and for 50 days they prepare for it (in the manner which is called,) in their barbarian speech, the Exmas Rush.
“When the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens, being exhausted from the (frenzies of the) Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much as on other days, and crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas, they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.
“(Now a) few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.
“But (as for) what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, (this) is not credible. It is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and so great things (as those involved in the Exmas Rush), in honor of a god they do not believe in.”
Many people (probably most people) today think they celebrate Christmas, but in actuality they are celebrating Xmas. The tradition of gift giving that started out small with family members giving each other small trinkets as a way to make the Savior’s birth a little more special became the focus of the Xmas season. Stores have caught onto this bonanza of gift buying and encouraged people to buy gifts for everyone they know and several for the people they know well. Every checkout counter is crowded with gift boxes filled with junk that no one would buy someone normally in an effort to encourage people to put down another $10 or $20 in addition to the money they’ve already spent based on wish lists. Stores now open on Thanksgiving day to start the season as early as possible. Many stores are open Christmas Eve until midnight and even on Christmas day.
Going beyond buying gifts for others, many people are now also buying all sorts of things for themselves during the Xmas season. They utter what are probably the three most dangerous words from a personal finance standpoint: “I deserve it.” They then proceed to spend money with abandon and fill their homes to the rafters with things the don’t really need. Probably the worst of all are all of the Santa and snowmen decorations and signs saying “Ho Ho Ho” and other dribble that adorn every room of the house in celebration of Xmas from November through January.
So what’s wrong with Xmas? Well, beyond the overspending that occurs, while Christmas, when celebrated properly, brings joy and selflessness, Xmas brings stress, selfishness, and a big letdown in the end. Christmas was started to celebrate the birth of Jesus and his bringing of salvation to all of those who were not among YHWH’s chosen people. (Note, Christmas is not Jesus’ birthday as is often said, since he was most likely born during the warm months. It is a celebration of His birth and timed to replace an older Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice.) It is a celebration of Jesus entering the world, where suddenly the gates of heaven were open to all, with the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God enabling entrance for everyone and not just the Jewish people. The most special gift of all is the ability of Jesus to cleanse us of our sins and enter even though there is nothing we could do to be deserving of that gift. This is probably the reason why people started giving gifts: Because they were receiving such an enormous gift from God, the least they could do was do something within their power to try to pay it forward.
Xmas, on the other hand, is empty and devoid of meaning. It is a celebration of greed and gluttony. It starts with fights at the malls for gifts and parking spaces. It ends once the gifts are opened with the typical feeling of letdown, even when one gets all he wanted. Xmas ends Christmas morning, but Christmas is just the start of something. It is the opening of a new doorway and the opportunity for a change in our hearts that can last the whole year and the rest of our lives.
Now many readers may think this is an odd topic for a personal finance blog. After all, one would think that the whole focus of a personal finance blog would be the amassing of money. If this is your belief, you would be wrong. The whole point of this blog is not the amassing of money for the acquisition of material things. It is to help people collect and grow a portion of the resources they earn through their work so that they can then use those resources to pay for their basic needs. To gain financial independence so that people can have the money they need for food, shelter, clothing, and so on without needing to depend on a job. Reaching this state reduces stress and also allows people to be more generous since it is easier to help others when you have the financial means to do so. Most people who do what is needed to make a middle class income can achieve financial independence by their mid-thirties. Sadly, most people squander the opportunity.
So if you’re feeling depressed by the passage of Christmas day, perhaps the cure would be to change your focus from Xmas to Christmas. Stop making the focus of the season the buying of the perfect gift at the lowest price, the decorating of every room in an effort to have the perfect Norman Rockwell look. The making of tons of food for fifty events. The giving of gifts out of obligation to coworkers, bosses, and people you barely know.
Do what you feel like doing in celebration of Xmas. Hang a wreath on the door if you want to. Put up a string of lights. Bake a couple of dozen cookies. But don’t feel obligated to do a bunch of things and spend a bunch of money. Searching for the perfect Xmas will always lead to emptiness because Xmas itself is void and empty. Instead, put the focus on the greatest gift you could every receive. That of a salvation that will last long after the things you’ve bought have rotted away. Use it as a way to bring God into your everyday life and not just December 25th.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.