How should one view Christmas in a year like this, when often, there may not be much to be merry about?
After some thought, it seems to me that depends on whether you view Christmas as a quantitative or qualitative event.
No, this isn’t a camouflaged religious argument; one can have quite secular yet qualitative reasons to be Christmassy, but whether it’s the Christ Child or simple goodwill and charity to family, friends or beyond, they’re both qualitative motivations to be measured qualitatively.
Very often though, Christmas becomes quantitative: how much did I get, how much did I give? Love acquires a price tag. If that’s the case, one can indeed calculate Christmas, just do the numbers.
But if that’s the case, if Christmas is merely a financial statement, a traditional test of everyone’s economic engines, why should it mean any more than a bunch of financial statements?
I think the problem is we expect Christmas to be a qualitative event, but we often substitute quantity (and cost is a quantity measure) for quality because it’s much easier and personally cheaper to do. Then we’re disappointed when the first doesn’t magically turn into the second. Who among us has not bought a gift for someone heartily disliked rather than try to take the dis- out of dislike? The problem is you can’t buy love. At most, money is a means to an end, not the end.
The point to A Christmas Carol and Scrooge is not “you can spend your way to happiness.” If Scrooge had loosened the purse strings on the advice of PR consultants rather than ghosts, he still would have been old Scrooge, probably grumpier and more resentful than ever. No, the real change in Scrooge was one of attitude; he stopped thinking of himself and started giving of himself. He began caring about those around them rather than treating them as tools. The widened wallet was just the byproduct of an attitude change; it wasn’t the change.
It is the gift of self that separates the quantitative from the qualitative. If you’re just giving and getting things, you will always be dissatisfied because that’s not what you really want. What you really want is giving and getting people. That’s why the Cratchits with nothing were happier than the old Scrooge with anything he wanted. Cratchit certainly didn’t mind the turkey, but what made him and Mrs. Cratchit much happier was that Tiny Tim was going to make it. It’s about people and what they do, that’s what you remember; that’s what you cherish. Money is but a tool of love, it is not love. Only you can provide that, and when you do, you’ll find that giving is better than receiving.