During the holiday season, there is often an emphasis on giving and getting gifts, having a perfect Christmas tree, or making sure every light decoration is perfectly set. All of these things help make the holidays festive, but they can distract us from the true meaning of the season.
It is surprising then, if not the least of which ironic, that Hollywood provides a reminder of what matters most during the hectic holiday season.
In Dr. Seuss’s, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Seuss helps remind us that Christmas and the holidays are more than a time for gift-buying. In the story, the Grinch attempts to ‘steal’ Christmas from the townspeople of Whoville by stealing all of their presents, food, and decorations, while everyone sleeps the night before Christmas.
When morning arrives, all the gifts and decorations are gone, however to the Grinch’s surprise, the townspeople are not troubled. They gather in the center, hold hands, and celebrate Christmas like any other year, together.
The Grinch perplexed asks, “How could it be so? [Christmas] came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.”
The Grinch realizes that he could never steal the true meaning of Christmas.
“Maybe Christmas [The Grinch] thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
As the Grinch discovers, Christmas is about community and celebrating together.
Another classic story that has been told countless times across generations is that of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” The story’s iconic character, Ebenezer Scrooge, has come to represent the skepticism held by many regarding charity and generosity during the Christmas season. For Scrooge, calling Christmas a “humbug” is an act of consequence, however, and on Christmas eve, he encounters the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and later three spirits. The spirits of Christmas past, present, and future show him the results of his greed and the inevitable end that is coming.
Scrooge moved by the encounter is forever filled with the Christmas spirit. He seeks to reconcile his past mistakes by giving instead of taking and helping those in need especially his clerk Bob Cratchet and Cratchet’s sickly son Tiny Tim.
Scrooge’s change of heart is a powerful reminder that charity and goodwill towards others are simple but necessary acts, especially during the holidays.
Finally, there is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Capra was the most influential director during World War II and his release of this film just a year after the war ended was intended as a heartfelt message to all struggling vets that their sacrifices were not in vain.
Today that message of individual and financial sacrifice for the betterment of the community seems most especially relevant. As the alluring riches of Silicon Valley loom large, families in our community are struggling more than ever before.
George Bailey, the protagonist in Capra’s classic, dreams of a life of adventure and success outside the small town of Bedford Falls. But time and time again, Bailey puts off his personal aspirations to accommodate the people around him.However, the constant strain of sacrifice puts Bailey on the brink of suicide.
In his darkest hour, a guardian angel, Clarence, descends from heaven to provide Bailey with a view of the world as if he had never been born. The action highlights that while Bailey is financially poor, his sacrifices have benefits well beyond what money can buy.
Minutes before his arrest, people throughout the town come pouring into his house and their collective effort more than pays off the owed debt. Bailey’s younger brother Harry announces a toast, “To my brother, the richest man in town,” a reference to Bailey’s wealth of friendship.
So this holiday season, try to not get so caught up in the frenzy of commercialism. Instead, spend your time with those who matter most and be sure to notice all that you have to be grateful for because it really is a wonderful life.