I grew up with a pretty traditional childhood — particularly during the holidays. Regular visits to extended family in Iowa literally meant trekking over the river and through the, well, corn fields — to grandmother’s house we went.

It was all you’d imagine: The lighted tree, Christmas Eve candle light service at a country church, gift exchange on Christmas morning, followed by a belly-busting made-from-scratch feast.

Somewhere over time, the magic of the season dimmed and monotony set in. Songs about sleigh bells and chestnuts lost meaning when none of us had ever ridden in or eaten up such antique items.

We’d scurry to obtain a gift somebody didn’t want, let alone need. The Christmas shopping season has taken on a life of its own, starting sooner and sooner, as the post Thanksgiving Black Friday rubicon was crossed years ago.

This melancholy is hard to describe. It’s not really a Scrooge “humbug” to poopoo anybody else, and certainly no Grinch-like desire to burglarize Whoville.

Maybe I have become Charlie Brown. In the classic TV special, he is tasked with picking out a decorative tree. Overwhelmed by the vendor’s lot of huge metallic decor, he gravitates to the most humble one. His friends are less than impressed, call him a “blockhead” for not achieving their Big Christmas expectations — even Snoopy snickers in his face.

An exhausted Charlie Brown exclaims “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” to which his good buddy Linus comes to the poignant rescue, with blue security blanket in tow.

The commercialization of Christmas is a thing. Seeking a counterpoint last month, I chatted with someone from Adbusters, the anti-consumerist magazine. Their annual “Buy Nothing Day” is a protest to boycott the Black Friday consumer orgy. I was glad to passively participate this year, even if I did miss a sale on some cool ski gloves.

At some point came critiques of Christmas, that Jesus was not likely to have even been born Dec.25.

But looking back, some Christians in history banned Christmas where it was synonymous with drunkenness and other vices.

Christian adherents today defend the modern festive holiday, warts and all, shrugging that it’s as good a day as any to celebrate God coming in the flesh.

Searching for alternative insight, I came across the booklet “Is Christmas Christian?” published online and available in print for free from The Living Church of God. This turned the typical critiques on its head. Is it possible to be pro-Christian but anti-Christmas?

Dec. 25, with the beginning of days getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, became the Christmas holiday and was added onto existing winter solstice festivals to shade out pagan practices.

Festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia featured gift giving. Today, many parents feel a guilty obligation to provide their kids a real Christmas, which means the toy(s) of their dreams, even if that means more credit card debt.

Evergreens were prominent in Germanic earth religions as resilient life over darkness.

So the booklet asks “But were they ‘Christianizing’ pagan practices or “‘paganizing’ Christianity?”

The psychological damage when later in one’s youth, it is realized that, “No, Virginia, there is NOT a Santa Claus.” That when that whimsical belief, along with the Easter bunny and tooth fairy, are found to be myths, a young mind may also question aspects of their parents’ more serious religious faith.

But holidays are important. Even if Easter is a more vital religious holiday, it should be called something else. Therefore The Living Church of God ultimately promotes a paleo-Christian holiday calendar that would ring more familiar to an Orthodox rabbi than a priest with a crucifix.

Well, this is a real fly in the ointment to our modern feel-good revelry, so don’t expect the algorithms to trend this movement to the top of your news feed.

Charlie Brown is no theologian or historian; he just knows something about the spectacle of a modern Christmas that is off track, urging a hunger for the authentic.

Steve Spellman hosts “Mid-Missouri This Week” on 89.5 FM KOPN at 5 p.m. every Wednesday. He writes twice monthly for the Missourian.


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