Christmas isn’t really about some fat guy sliding down the chimney. The significance of it should represent a spirit of “Peace on earth and goodwill toward man,” but it’s Christ’s birth foremost.

Yet, it’s not appropriate to say “Merry Christmas” because you might offend someone; it’s best to say “Happy Holidays.” It’s not kosher to display a nativity scene in public anymore either — someone might not like it, so it’s best not to display one at all — and it’s surely not right to mention the name Jesus.

However, President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday in 1870. The law, in part, said: “the twenty-fifth day of December, commonly called Christmas, a day appointed or recommended by the President of the United States as a day of public fast or thanksgiving, shall be a holiday.”

My mom says, “Life’s not always a bowl of cherries,” and, for too many that philosophical gesture falls in line with where the rubber meets the road anymore.

With humans, it’s best to sooner or later come to the conclusion we aren’t always in control, and when one wants to reflect and weigh the pros and cons of circumstances around Christmas time, it might not be a bad idea to conjure up a list of your own. I think you’ll find there’s more pros than cons.

Here’s a sampling:

Pro: For many, it’s a time for reflection of what’s truly important.

Con: Self-pity seems to be the path of least resistance.

Pro: “Is there a Santa Claus?” was an editorial appearing in a New York newspaper in 1897. The editorial, which included the famous reply, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” has become an indelible part of Christmas folklore and the most reprinted editorial in history.

Con: But who reads the paper anymore?

Pro: Mixed in with gifts under the tree, wrap a few solitary packages with nothing more than a note inside. Write on those notes something like: “This is my gift to you: I vow to love you more.”

“I’m going to see the world in a different light from now on.”

“I have little control over my circumstances, but I’ll make the best of it.”

Make your own subtitles, apply what fits, and use the idea. I’m sure you’ll find it’ll move those getting that unorthodox gift.

Con: There’s a chance you may be likened to that of Ebenezer Scrooge, before his conversion, of course.

A close relative of mine, who came from a family of nine, told me of a Christmas she remembered during the Great Depression. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom and her father struggled to feed all those mouths, but he was able to buy a red wagon for the kids to share, and an apple and orange for each of them. It was the most memorable one of all for her.

I recall one magical Christmas when we were living in our first home as relative newlywed. The kids were small, we were dirt poor, and it was Christmas Eve. We had a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, but we had no money for gifts that year. I was torn up inside.

That evening, there was a knock at the door and the kids yelled: “It’s Santa, it’s Santa!” I said something like: “Stop foolin’ around.”

They weren’t kidding. A trio of County Jaycee members, one dressed like St. Nick, had bags of toys and food. Although we never learned how they found out about our plight, we did learn they spent their entire budget of a thousand dollars on us.

We made a meal that night and I sat on the floor opening gifts with the kids, crying.

The next morning I heard a ruckus outside. It wasn’t Santa and his reindeer; it was the next-door neighbor filling our empty fuel oil tank. I told Ron we didn’t have the money for that. He said: “I know.” When I pressed him for an answer to why he was doing such a thing he stated: “Three churches in town said there will come a time when someone will need to heat their home and here’s the money; put it to good use.”

I can’t remember all of life’s Christmases, many are forgotten or less memorable, but I remember that magical Christmas vividly. Most of the “stuff” I’ve purchased or received for Christmas is no doubt rotting in a landfill somewhere — no disrespect intended — but I remember the generosity and sacrifice, as well as the thoughtfulness and kindness of others more than anything else this time of year.

•Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, is published bi-monthly. He’s an author, nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit in Jamestown, Indiana, a non-profit organization aiding the poor.  He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @GregAllencolumn.

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