That Christmas has become more and more secularized is obvious. But we are not helpless against the tide. There are things we can do to restore and maintain the meaning of the holiday for ourselves and for our families, and for those around us.
We can start by making our own personal observance of Advent meaningful: prayer, penance (culminated by a good confession, much better if we can get a friend, a relative, or a colleague go to confession too), and good works. Penances need not be big; the hustle and bustle of December gives us many little things to offer up. Our efforts to smile amidst the weather (for those in cold countries), the Christmas rush traffic jams, work that has to be finished before the holidays (or which has to be done during the holidays), irksome relatives during family reunions, Christmas blues for those who are celebrating the first Christmas after the death of a family member or a bad relationship break-up, and, for housewives, the 1,001 chores to be finished for the family Christmas dinner would be very pleasing to the Christ Child.
It also helps to develop and maintain wholesome traditions in the family. The Advent wreath, the empty crib where you place a piece of straw for every good deed or sacrifice you do, the Nativity scene making — I grew up with all these customs and I intend to pass them on to my children, should it be God’s will that I would have my own family. Growing up with all these customs has helped me maintain my perspective on what Christmas really is, amidst the secularization of the season. In addition, I’ve developed my own personal traditions for Christmas, such as an annual reading of G.K. Chesterton’s essay, The God in the Cave and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
There may be aspects of the celebration of Christmas which we can help sanctify. For example, we could suggest replacing the office Christmas party parlor games that have risque twists with other activities that people will enjoy more. We could do Christmas shopping in a prayerful manner, consulting God about every person in our Christmas list and asking His light on what could best give joy to the recipient.
These are just a few of things we can do to help re-Christianize Christmas. For sure readers could offer even more suggestions and improve on the suggestions just given. For my part, I could give just one last and important suggestion:
The need to re-Christianize Christmas should not give us scruples about enjoying all aspects of the season: the magical scenery, the sumptuous Christmas dinner, the gifts…After all, the mystery of the Incarnation precisely tells us that all material things are good and can be sanctified. Efforts to re-Christianize Christmas actually intensify, and not dilute, the enjoyment of the material aspects of the holiday. When Christmas is stripped of its meaning, the merriment of the season becomes simply a yearly budget black hole, a superficial giddiness that gets thrown away with the gift wrappers or slept away with the post-Christmas hangover. But if we appreciate the mystery we are celebrating, Christmas becomes a truly happy event whose joy overflows to the whole year.