I’ve been thinking about why I like Christmas.
It’s not religious. I’m a child of the Enlightenment — the narrative that the son of God was born in a stable 2,000 years ago to save six billion of us because the first one was tricked into eating an apple by a smooth-talking snake. For me, that’s about on par with the narrative of a big fat guy in a red suit delivering toys to the whole world while flying in a toy-filled sled pulled by reindeers. Let’s put it this way: I’m dubious. But the story of a mother giving birth in a stable is compelling whether or not the child is divine.
It’s not about the presents. The ritual of exchanging decorative debris as a means of pricing love, or as reparation for a year’s worth of neglect or hurt, is something to be endured. It’s too bad our weak economy is based on the purchase of Chinese junk. But there is something very special about little kids opening their presents on Christmas morning.
The more I’ve thought about it, the more I believe that Christmas is about children and childhood. My very best Christmases have been the ones connected to the early days of life. In my own youth, I would get up and sneak down the stairs on Christmas morning at our house on Indiana Avenue, and see the Christmas tree blazing with lights. I was in awe. The Christmases when the boys were little and my oldest son would play along with the Santa deception with his believing younger brothers. The cacophony of squeals and the blizzard of wrapping paper are permanently in my memory. And now I am very excited about the prospect of my 2-year-old granddaughter Lily’s Christmas. Seeing her, I am reminded of my childhood and the boys’. It makes me feel good.
These are dark times we live in. The planet grows slowly warmer. The government slowly runs out of money. Terrorists and fanatics slowly develop nuclear weaponry. We need handholds and footholds to keep us from falling into a black pit of despair and cynicism. We need hope. When we see the innocence and joy of children at Christmas, we remember our childhoods and how bright and shiny the world was then. We hope and believe that the future will be better. That hope is a beacon for us as we travel along our future paths. Merry Christmas to all.
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.