Christmas Outside the Box

Christmas_outside_the_box Christmas Outside the BoxAs I was reading an article on an online news site, I chanced upon an advertisement for a beautiful Christmas tree. Indeed, it was an actual Christmas tree, not a holiday, winter or sparkle tree that celebrates some unknown winter solstice festivity.

This letter unapologetically used the word Christmas and the tree actually looked inviting enough to conger up memories of Christmases past. In a nanosecond of Christmas spirit, I clicked upon the attractive image and learned about how I might acquire a similar tree for home or office.

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The tree, it turns out, is a high-tech artificial pre-lit tree that can be sent to your home in a box, wheeled into your living room and assembled in less than three minutes. Once assembled using its easy-to-use illustrated instructions, you have nothing left to do but activate the lights with the remote control (batteries included) and stand back to enjoy the stunning beauty of your instant Christmas tree experience.

It would seem there is no easier way to go on the offensive in today’s cultural war on Christmas than to fill all places with such trees in any of its six varieties and deck the halls with boughs of synthetic holly!

Far be it for me to criticize any Christmas tree, real or otherwise. In the present cultural climate, any tree that calls itself Christmas is a victory over politically-correct conformity. However, I cannot help but think that this pre-lit ready-to-use boxed Christmas tree with its “miracle” technology is a fitting symbol of where we have gone wrong in our culture and its celebration of Christ’s birth.

We live in a culture of instant gratification where we must have everything right away and effortlessly. This does not only involve indulging in sensual delights but also our experience of wholesome and uplifting things like Christmas trees.

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In our frenzied desire for instant and effortless mass consumption 24/7, we have engaged in what I call the “frenetic intemperance” of throwing off legitimate restraints and engaging in consumption that ignores those cultural and spiritual values that normally serve to temper and give meaning to life.

We have built, it is true, a vast market system that is undoubtedly convenient, plentiful, and inexpensive. Yet, in the process, we have sacrificed that human touch that so delights and enriches us. In the name of maximizing efficiency and increasing consumer convenience, a spirit of dreary sameness descends upon the markets. The result is boxes upon boxes of nearly identical high-tech pre-lit trees that lack soul.

It is this human element that is so essential to the traditional Christmas tree. The spiritual act of creating a unique and marvelous tree still leads millions of Americans to buy real trees and decorated them with a hodge-podge of ornaments and lights. It is precisely the time spent together decorating and the extra effort involved that makes the real Christmas tree so special and memorable…and what makes the three-minute pop-up tree so utterly forgettable.

This human element also confers authenticity and meaning upon the Christmas tree because it becomes an expression of those who prepare it. It gives rise to the creativity of traditional ornaments and wholesome traditions. In other words, the human element brings about true culture and not the pre-packaged substitutes found in so many of today’s sterile shopping malls..

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Of course, our problem is not just Christmas trees but a whole culture of unrestraint that has invaded all fields. It leads to rushed schedules and stress-filled lives caused by our impatience with time and space based on the idea that nothing should stand between ourselves and the objects of our gratification. Tethered to our mobile devices, we are constantly feeding a restless desire for new sensations, stimuli and thrills. When you must have everything instantly and effortlessly, there is the temptation to turn the Christmas season into one more of those sensations. We are encouraged to buy the instant Christmas tree experience rather than experience that special instant called Christmas.

Amid such noisy distractions, there is little time to reflect upon the true peace of Christmas; it is easy to lose track of the “reason for the season”—the birth of the Christ Child. In the manger in Bethlehem, we can find the balm that will sooth our agitated souls and take solace, “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us.”(Is. 9:6)

Christmas invites us to reflect upon those things that really matter. In a Christmas-tree-in-a-box culture, it invites us to think outside the box.


12 thoughts on “Christmas Outside the Box

  1. I remember my father cutting a tree and dragging it into the farmhouse. Not very symmetrical, impossible to find a “good” side, but it was ours. I remember the beauty of my Aunt Pat’s tree and her little houses that made up a village under the tree. A thing of beauty does remain with a child all his/her life. First and foremost, it is always love, security, and goodwill. Good food, family sharing, the Christmas music. So don’t knock something beautiful, even if it comes in a box. Merry Christmas to all, and peace on earth. Love, Pat

  2. I take hours and hours to trim our real Christmas tree taking great pains to pick the perfect one so even though our ceiling is 8 ft. We will buy a 11 ft. one and have to cut off from top or bottom because the older the tree the stronger the branches and it cannot be to bushy so the outstretched branches are spaced to dangle and to hold our over 500 ornaments. Each with a history and people come to see this magnificent sight. It is our little piece of heaven at Christmas.

  3. We enjoy the midnight Mass, and the full choir with instruments and all. At home, the singing of Christmas carols by the children is the most moving scene of all. Truly, on Christmas Day, heaven and earth are one. And we feel it!

  4. I am disabled and no longer can pull out the box that contains our Christmas tree so I purchased a table top Manger or if you prefer, Creche scene that lights up…

    I prefer to be reminded of why we Chrisitians celebrate Christmas.

  5. I appreciate you example of the instant decorated tree from a box as a great metaphor to describe modern Christmases as being too commercial these days. Yet, I have to admit that for those of us with allergies, an artificial tree is a must & for those who are concerned about the environment, a live tree planted in a large decorative planter is a good alternative. Quality time with family, making ornaments & handmade gifts & Xmas baking, caroling & attending midnight mass &/or watching it live from the Vatican when the weather is bad, are all the simple pleasures one can do with the family & make Christmas commercial free & the holiday celebrations joyous & special!

  6. I want to write about one problem.I understand,that Catholic organizations need money to function,but I don’t understand why must I pay if I want to lighten virtual candle in internet or for my request to pray for me and my family?Donation is normal act,but asking to donate as permanent demand isn’t righteous!Vatican is rich religious institution and must be main financier of Catholic organizations worldwide!!!Commercialization of the faith is unacceptable and discredits its authority and importance!!!

    • We Catholics have a rich tradition of intercessory prayer. Lighting a candle in church while you pray has the image of the smoke going up with your prayer to heaven. It also gives light for you here on earth. The fake, modern, electric candles do none of this. Hopefully there is still a prayer, but these electric “candles” or internet ones seem like donation machines empty of the spiritual aspect.

      • Dear friend,my comment is about problem of commercialization of faith!!!Thank you for your reply!Wish you Merry Christmas!!!

  7. I never liked artificial Christmas trees… Grew up with the smell of fresh Christmas tree smell in our living room during Christmas and I want it to stay that way for my kid and grandkids.. I love what you say that there is no “soul” in an artificial tree.. I understand exactly what you mean. This normally happens when we take Christ out of Christmas. God willing, I never change and always remember what it is we celebrate… THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR. . JESUS CHRIST! !

  8. A great analogy to the current state of the world. One thing we all must remember is that currently it is NOT Christmas yet, but Advent. THE COMING OF OUR LORD, both as Savior and as Judge. That’s one of the issues of the world’s instantaneous gratification, no preparation or fast before the feast. It’s all decorations, presents, and singing carols immediately after Thanksgiving, and now it seem earlier. So people get tired of Christmas, even before the day gets here. I think it’s important for all of us Catholics here to keep that in mind. Do your best with the duties of your state in life to offer sacrifices, increase personal prayer, attending Mass, Eucharistic adoration and make reparations for all of the offenses to Our Lord in this season so close to His First Coming. Deo Gratias.

  9. I wish I’d been able to photograph a sponsor’s formal dining room this morning…a real Victorian “Red Room” with antique red walls, antique red rug, tree, holly, candles, red and white toile, lights, a collection of ornaments, vintage doilies, cherubs… She has a gift for decorating. In December her Red Room really goes over the top, but somehow she keeps it nostalgic rather than tacky.

    Possibly because in December she really tries to get into the Christmas spirit and be generous…

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