Christmas has lost religious meaning

Editor MNH: (12/23/01)

To everything there is a season: a time to weep and a time to laugh: a time to have a parade and a time, Advent, when a parade, even one called a Christmas parade, is inappropriate. What is Advent?  In the Christian calendar  Advent is the four weeks  before Christmas. In my childhood it was a period like Lent. When the priest celebrated early mass, the Rorate, the color of  his vestments was violet, the color of repentance. The songs we sang were somber, full of longing like: "Oh come, oh come Emanuel." It was a quiet time culminating in  Christmas Eve, truly a silent night, a holy night. The Christmas season was the twelve days after Christmas ending with Epiphany. Besides the name there is nothing left of Christmas. It has become an empty shell bereft of all religious meaning, a shell only useful to hold money. St. Nikulaus who to us children was a venerable Saint has been turned into a jolly, fat bellied, elf. The ox and the ass which we put into our manger has been replaced by a flying reindeer with a neon nose. Communist Russia after it had torn out religion and  the Christian culture tried to give its children something. It came up with Father Winter. Our society did one better with Frosty the Snowman.

We, the people of Muensterhausen, were dirt poor, but unaware of  our poverty. The sting of comparison with wealth was missing. And then there was this rhythm to life, the rhythm of the Year of the Lord.  The Year of the Lord began with the fasting in Advent, the celebration of Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemass, Lent and Easter, the blessing of the fields, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. There wasn't a day which did not have its special meaning. The Year of the Lord was lived by the whole community and enriched the lives of even the poorest of the poor. Without religion the rhythm of communal life has gone flat. Thinking back, what a rich childhood I had and how impoverished I feel now in the midst of affluence.