Christmas Vs. NYC 

Doesn’t matter who I’ve talked to recently — Christian baby boomers, non-religious 20-somethings, an 8-year-old girl, my friends, the cute guy sitting behind me at church, the cashier at the grocery store — everyone’s in agreement about one thing:

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I don’t know if it’s the lack of snow, or all the negativity in the media, or the fact that LED twinkle lights are officially taking over as the norm, but one thing’s for sure…it’s December 12, and people are not in the Christmas spirit.


Living in NYC is so special…especially around the holidays. There really is nothing comparable. The lights, the shopping, the smell of roasting chestnuts, the Christmas displays, the holiday markets, the ice skating…it’s something you’ve got to experience in person to truly appreciate.



But I dunno…this year, it just hasn’t been quite the same.

I’m not seeing quite as many decorations up. I’m not hearing hardly any Christmas music. There just isn’t that cheer that has been such a mainstay around this time of year.

I was thinking about this the other night. I had a free evening, so I went to the candlelight Christmas concert at my church. And it was truly as beautiful as it sounds. A cappella music; that breathtaking, non-LED, amber glow from real candles; and a stunning church to boot – complete with holly accents.

And it was in that moment that I had one of those, stomach-dropping moments.

I asked myself, “Is Christmas dead?”

Sure, maybe inside my church walls, it’s alive and well…but walk outside these red doors and it’s a different story. A somber thought indeed.

The next morning, I was at brunch with my friends and we were all talking about our holiday travel plans. Who was visiting the houses of a significant other for the first time, who was going to be in town for New Year’s Eve…you know…the worries and preoccupations of a typical 20-something.

But the conversation suddenly found itself in a discussion about the meaning of Christmas. And all the questions were directed at the resident-Christian…me.

What’s the big deal between ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays?’ Why can’t everybody just say, “Merry Christmas?” Because to many of my friends…Christmas was just a time of year. It was that “feel good” time with family and friends, and Christmas trees, snowmen and Santa Claus. What’s the big deal if a Jewish person says “Merry Christmas?” Why would they even care– Christmas is just a cultural, seasonal holiday anyway? Can’t we all just be in agreement about “Merry Christmas?” 

And I suddenly found myself trying to articulate the difference between Judiasim and Christianity.

And I was explaining to one of my non-Christian, non-anything friends how Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. And that, unlike Jewish people, Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah – the “Bringer” of our Salvation. And so, in essence, Christmas is the celebration of the point of our faith. We’re celebrating the birth of Jesus.

I cited how at my house, we make a gingerbread house with my niece one day, and then the next day, we make a birthday cake for Jesus.

And he took this all in. And we ended the conversation by coming to the agreement that Christmas, in actuality, is a deeply personal time of year. Because contrary to what culture dictates, whether it’s “CHRISTmas” or just another cultural celebration, a la, Thanksgiving, it actually means something. And to the people who say ‘Merry Christmas’ because of the birth of Jesus, it means something much deeper than just the season of White Peppermint Mochas and tidings of good cheer.

And maybe it was the 2 Mimosas I was currently processing on an empty stomach, but hearing those words coming out of my mouth, as I was explaining the point of Christmas to a non-believer…it dawned on me…

Something that I’m not proud to admit.

So far this year, I’m guilty of experiencing a Jesus-less Christmas.

Which sounds horrible. I know. It’s not like I’m denying my Savior, but admittedly, He hasn’t been the focus of this time of year just yet.

This year, I don’t know, I guess I have just been so wrapped up in the busyness of Christmas, rather than the miracle.

And hearing myself explain, in “kid english” what Christmas was all about, I realized….that’s what was missing.

I had forgotten about Jesus.

After all, isn’t that the real point of Christmas?

I’ve never been one to really fall into the “War-On-Christmas”-camp, but I do think that there’s some truth to the de-Jesus-ing of Christmas. We want to celebrate Christmas, and have our red-and-green, and Santa hats, and say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” which is all well and good…but where is Jesus in all of that?

I have this visual in my head of the manger scene, but instead of an amber-lit, peaceful scene of Baby Jesus’ humble beginnings, His manger is buried under Macy’s boxes, Starbucks cups, Hatchimals, and competitively-lit Christmas light displays.

So, realistically, what can we do about this?

Because honestly….it’s tough. There are still going to be parties to attend and travel plans to make. And even with the help of Amazon, those gift’s ain’t gonna buy themselves.

I think at the end of the day, it’s gotta come back to Jesus.

If there’s one Christmas decoration to put up this year…(besides the tree)…it’s the manger scene.

Because just like literally everything else in life…Jesus isn’t going to boisterously shove His presence into our lives. He’s going to just be there, quietly, not seeking attention, as that Little Baby, softly cooing and being peaceful. He’s always there, available, just waiting for us to come in and keel beside the manger. But we’ve got to decide to do so.

So maybe that’s what I need to do more of.

Take a breather, and go back to the manger. Look in and see the Christ Child in His infancy, knowing full well the magnitude and significance His birth brings to our salvation.

Because without that perspective, Christmas is just an empty holiday. Filled with “feel-good” traditions, patrolling elves on shelves, and unhealthy doses of materialism.


Maybe I should take to heart that soliloquy I uttered at brunch yesterday, while waiting for my pancakes to arrive.

Really, what does Christmas mean?

It’s time to go back to the manger.

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310 thoughts on “Christmas Vs. NYC 

  1. And here a message from my spiritual teacher Ted Nottingham… 🙂 maybe it will helps you to FEEL christmas…

    „… to enter into this holy time… that has been so significant to humanity for so long… this time of celebrating, remembering, reflecting on the Incarnation. The Incarnation of Spirit in matter… you know the birth of Christ means to christians, to spiritual people, that all humanity is a carrier of the Divine… as we enter into the magic of christmas and into that silent night… and into those childhood memories… into that goodness, that comes from each of us as we truly become part of christmas… what we are experiencing is the knowledge that we are not alone. There is deep wonder, deep beauty, deep mystery to who we are and to why we are here…in Early Christianity the idea of Christs incarnation meant, as one teacher said, God became a human being so that human beings could enter into Gods Reality, could become godlike…“ (Ted Nottingham)

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  2. No doubt it’s the Church that’s not doing enough to find a solution to the ‘de-Jesus-ing’ of Christmas.

    My pastor, Rev. Chris Okotie, taught what many don’t see: that it’d have been antithetical to scripture if they had found an inn. The reason being that man lived surrounded by animals in Eden. So His birth must take man back to that environment. Revelation? Yes! The inn is a place of rest and of feeding. They couldn’t get one from mankind because He would give that rest! It’s good to sit under a good pastor!

    Now, if you ask me, Christmas marks the Incarnation. God, unexpectedly, walked into our world to bring to us the most needed salvation. His birth, became a turning point, which culminated in the death (of our sinful nature), burial (of satanic hold) and resurrection (of our dead spirits). Some may accuse me of fanatical bigotry. No sweat. This is what Christmas is all about. Jesus said unless He’s eaten, heaven will be impossible. They left Him thinking He wanted to initiate them into the cult of cannibalism. Did visitors see the Infant of Days in a manger? Is it not because this One, in the manger, the Word of God, the Bread from heaven which if any should eat and drink will never hunger or thirst again forever and ever?! Amen!

    Why did we see the throng of the angelic host after the shepherds (shepherds? of course He is the great Shepherd!) had been informed?. He’d come also to settle the angelic conflict. Christmas is all about Jesus, who is very God of very God. Light up the atmosphere! Roll out the drums! Let’s celebrate the birth of Him with whom we all have to do. Amen.

    Bbb, you’ve proved that to whom much is given much is expected. This is another great post not unlike others. Merry Christmas!

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  3. I ‘m glad to see that your Nativity does not contain baby-Jesus yet. No, no, no we cannot put Jesus into his manger until Christmas morn. For years, I have gone about stealing baby-Jesuses out of Nativity sets that co-worker put up. I just hide Jesus until the correct day on which he appears. And, do not have the Wise guys show up until 12th Night! Merry Christmas to the miracle. Merry Christmas to the Lord of Misrule (British tradition). And, may all your animals talk on Christmas eve, merrily, of course. (We have added a zebra and giraffe to our creche)
    Oscar

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  4. Merry Christmas, dear. I’m meeting you at the nativity scene. We tell that Baby how glad we are that he was willing to come to earth for us. Then we stand together with a great big shout for the victory he paid on the cross. Well, that how I seeing it! You are a delight to read. Thanks.

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  5. Hugs U!! Warmest love too!! I think the moods in many ways have had a factor on a LOT. No matter what one’s political views are, the whole election process from back last summer to now, has really made people grumpy, mean, you name it. I may sound like old and “dated” to many about this, but the thing to me, that each year, ruins the fall holidays and special days a little more (than the year before) is the rush rush rush by the consumer industry to throw these things in our faces earlier and earlier. Now you find Halloween in the stores before summer is even over. Black Friday has turned into an all November blitz (the saving grace being that many have revolted, and I hope it keeps happening, against being open on Tgiving itself). Then after Tgiving its Christmas blitz. Now I know that part of it has “always been” but its rushed so much more. Shopping aside, go to tv. First, its ridiculous that I saw the famous Hershey’s Kisses Christmas Add (the bells) BEFORE HALLOWEEN!! Christmas based adds are WAYYYYY too early now. Nowadays on Tgiving weekend, the networks throw out almost all the classic kids tv specials. Christmas movies start being shown like crazy. Then you get to a week or 2 before Christmas and its all “been there done that” and all you get is regular shows on. Years ago, Christmas based adds didn’t start til at least Tgiving afternoon. As far as tv specials, you didn’t see those until like the 2nd week of Advent “at the earliest”. Christmas worked itself up in time and was ready to be celebrated when you got there. It wasn’t so done and over. There was a sense of waiting by the consumer industry for all the “shopping times”. It takes away the luster no matter what holiday, when you get tired of seeing it in all the stores for months ahead. I will say, there is probably at least one station in the NYC radio market, that has been playing Christmas Music 24/7 since November. THAT I like. It was a pain back in the day when you heard NOTHING til Christmas Eve day itself, and Christmas, then at some time Christmas Night, they channels switched right back to their regular format. I bet you can find one. Its wonderful that you went to your church. This is what I think you should do, and its what I would do if I was living in NYC. IF YOU CAN (I think they sell tickets but they might not be very expensive) GO TO MIDNIGHT MASS AT ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL. Go early, before 11 so you can be there when the awesome choir starts their musical program. That’s a Catholic tradition that in many churches has been whittled down from what it was because so many want to go for convenience to the 4pm 5 pm etc… Christmas Eve masses. Midnight still gets people but not the crowds it once did in many regular parishes. Those to me are fine for the families of little kids, Santa age etc… You get so many that have it at 10 now or what. I see/hear all these people who say they can’t stay up, but have NO PROB the week after, for NYE. (Gee, they don’t put NYE at 4, 5, or even 10 for everybody’s convenience). But that’s why I say try going at St. Pat’s because its still “such a big deal” there. Or if tix are gone, any church, such as the one you go to regularly, for their Midnight Mass. You are wonderful and beautiful inside and out and I am sure God’s light projects to so many around you during this dark and colder time. God Bless us all in these hard times ahead that I fear may be before us due to all these unfortunate world events. I send all my love and affection for a Merry, Blessed Christmas!!! xoxoxoxoxo ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. Thanks so much MiguelTio. I couldn’t agree more — these holidays are full of BLITZ’S for sure! And wowwwww, midnight mass at St. Pat’s sounds just amazing. I was there for mass actually twice last week, and it’s so beautiful with the scaffolding gone. The marble is white and gleaming. Gorgeous. Unfortunately I won’t be able to catch it at St. Pat’s this year, but my family always goes to midnight mass — which is at 11 haha — on Christmas Eve and it is truly the highlight of our christmas 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! hope all is well with you. been praying xox

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      1. That will be a beautiful Mass just the same. Yeah, a church once its remodeling is done, is always awesome!! Biggest hugs and enjoy the time with your family!! x0x 🙂

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  6. Now that you mention it, it seems like we are celebrating Christmas more because we *have* to – and not because we want to. The enthusiasm isn’t there anymore; it’s become a chore……

    I hope that as long as Linus is there to explain things to us, we’ll be OK.

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  7. Now that you mention it, it seems more and more like we are celebrating Christmas because we *have* to, and not because we want to. It’s become a chore; the enthusiasm and joy isn’t really there anymore.

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  8. This is a great post and I agree! I am feeling the exact same, although I am excited for Christmas, it doesn’t feel like it🎄 It’s like people are putting less effort! It’s my dream though to spend a Christmas in New York! I envy you🎄🎁❄️

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  9. Another well written post. One deep, thoughtful and encouraging. I would love to skate just once at the skating rink there in NYC. I do agree that Christmas each year feels less and less as it should. It is very sad.
    What makes it more sad is how our society plays such a big role in desensitizing it and other important holidays, which is not say that they should compare to the true meaning and reason for Christmas, but it is true that our world, our society is demoralizing our values and traditions.
    What do our children have to really look forward to? Although, off topic a bit, it is what is going in the world, in our society which helps me to understand why some choose not to have kids. To not bring kids into this world.
    However, even with saying that and as you mentioned in a previous post-everything is in God’s hands.
    Merry Christmas, Caralyn. I hope that you had a peaceful and wonderful time.

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 what a kind note of encouragement. Oh my gosh, I hope you can visit NYC sometime in the winter
      Because it is so special skating at Rockefeller. There’s not quite much more quintessential ny than that! You’re right. Everything is in His hands. No matter what the culture of society may tout as “gospel,” we know His true gospel and His true goodness. Thanks again for stopping by. Happy new year! Xox

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