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Holidays' headaches and hangovers — Why?

More people are unhappy, miserable, depressed, discouraged, deep in debt,
and violent during the holiday season than at any other time of the year.
There is precious little peace on earth or goodwill among men.
There doesn't seem to be much of Christ in the commercialized "Christmas"
that began last September in the stores!
Just how Christian are these holidays anyway?
Where did we get all these customs?
What does the Bible have to say about them?


MERRY CHRISTMAS, Happy New Year!" millions wished one another as the holiday season swung into high gear.

But what was behind the forced outward cheerfulness of these greetings? Behind the veneer of glittering lights, tinseled trees, sweet music, gaily wrapped gifts and all the other holiday paraphernalia?

Tension, frustration and disgust. Depression, violence and lawlessness. In short, the greatest mountain of misery, unhappiness and woe of the entire year!


The REAL Christmas Spirit

The real Christmas spirit is anything but one of "peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Policemen who draw Christmas duty see what the real Christmas spirit is like. One policeman said, "I have been an officer for over 19 years. We get more calls from neighbors to go out and settle family fights on Christmas Eve than on any other night of the year, including New Year's. You walk into a house which is gaily decorated, the tree is aglow, beautifully wrapped gifts are under the tree and the husband and wife are throwing things at each other. The kids are crouched in the corners scared out of their wits."

At Christmas, the number of murders reaches its annual year-long peak. As the relatives gather, old irritations often flare up into outbursts of rage and violence.

"There certainly are more depressions, suicidal gestures and cries for help at Christmas than at any other time," says psychiatrist Edward T. Auer of the St. Louis University Medical School. Suicide Prevention Centers across the nation report that they have more calls in the week before Christmas than at any other time of the year.

Auto deaths also reach their annual peak on Christmas day — often because the drivers have imbibed too heavily in another kind of Christmas "spirit."

As a result of holiday revelry with such customs as "kissing under the mistletoe," private lie detector operators report that the week following Christmas is the busiest one of the year for them. Husbands are suspicious of their wives and wives of their husbands, and many want their mates to take the lie test to find out the truth about their total Yule activities.

At Christmas time personal debts skyrocket. Many stretch their credit to the limit and buy goods way beyond their means. Millions of other spend hard-earned money for junk merchandise and toys which are broken by New Year's. And to add insult to injury — the very gifts they'll be paying for on 18% revolving charge accounts for half the year to come — the gifts that weren't appreciated, and may have started a violent family argument — those gifts are on sale at one third to one half off come December 26!

The spirit of Christmas is also graphically illustrated by the fact that more shoplifting occurs during December than in any other month of the year. U.S. merchants lose more than 500 million dollars to shoplifters during the holiday season. It is estimated that 90 percent of these thefts are committed by "ordinary" people, as opposed to professionals. And 90 percent of these "ordinary" shoplifters are women!


"Christmas Neurosis"

People are so prone to emotional distress and violent outburst during the holiday season that doctors and psychiatrists have been studying this tendency for more than 20 years. They call this malady "Christmas Neurosis" or the "Holiday Syndrome."

In a special study of the "Holiday Syndrome," two physicians and two psychiatric social workers from the University of Utah Medical School listed hives, overeating, crying jags, dishonesty, sexual deviation and just plain orneriness as some of the "Christmas reactions" people develop around Thanksgiving and carry with them until after the first of the year.

People who acted normally during the rest of the year were found to suddenly cash bad checks, join nudist colonies, become cruel to their families and do any number of strange things as the Christmas season approached.

What are the symptoms of "Christmas Neurosis"? Fatigue, anxiety, the desire to escape, regression to childhood, increased irritability, a wish for a magical solution to problems, temporarily casting aside restraint, and feelings of loneliness and insecurity all play a part. But the most common symptoms are "depression and deep anger, though victims may conceal them gallantly under the requisite degree of "ho-ho" heartiness. Reaction against the "pressure of having to be happy" is cited as the reason for this anger and depression.

The holiday season is idealized as the time when warmth, sweetness and joy permeate the air and all problems are solved — or at least temporarily suspended.

The problem is that it doesn't work out that way!

People try to make sure that they get their full share of holiday pleasures by greedily indulging themselves in food, drink and sex. But few are able to enjoy to the full all the holiday pleasures they think they have coming to them. So they become resentful, depressed, moody and unpredictable.

Just because everyone is supposed to be happy at Christmas, they assume that everyone is happy — everyone, that is, except them! This makes them feel deprived and resentful of those whom they think ARE happy. Actually, the truth is, just about everyone feels as sour as they do — but most are struggling to hide it so they won't appear to be a "wet blanket" dampening the holiday mood.

People who have experienced a recent divorce, death in the family or a family brawl, or who have a loved one in Vietnam, often feel resentful because the idealized warmth and togetherness of their "perfect" Christmas has been wrecked.

Others feel deprived of holiday joy because of unpleasant memories of the past. Or because of pleasant memories which can't be relived (hence the tendency of childhood regression). Or because of the nagging fear of holiday debts. Or the dread of having to put up with the in-laws again. Or the fear of not receiving many expensive gifts — expensive to prove that you are highly thought of, or many gifts to prove that a lot of people like you.

Some react to these pressures, fears and memories by going into a moody huff and becoming nasty. They feel, "If I can't be happy, I'm going to do all I can to make sure you aren't happy either."

What an attitude!


The Incongruities of Christmas

Doesn't it seem paradoxical — and more than a little ironical — that at a time when millions mouth the words "Peace on earth, good will to men" there are more thefts, murders, drunken orgies, family brawls, suicides and violent deaths on the highway and in our homes than at any other time of the year?

Doesn't it seem a little strange that the mails are burdened down with billions of cards bearing the message "Merry Christmas" — while the very ones sending these cards are decidedly un-merry, frustrated, emotionally upset, "blue" and swearing that they'll never go through with this again!?

Isn't it a little odd that millions wish their friends a "Happy New Year" —while they are busily striving to make the beginning of their own new year as Unhappy as possible? Unhappy because of a heavy load of holiday debts. Unhappy because the new year will begin by paying the penalty for sins of excess, licentiousness, lust and greed.

Think further.

Isn't it a little hypocritical to teach our children a fantastic package of lies while we are supposedly honoring the One who said, "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? (Matt. 19:18)

And isn't it a little contradictory that guns and other toys of violence should consistently be among the best sellers at Christmas — the time idealizing "peace on earth" and supposedly honoring the One who said "Thou shalt do no murder"? (Matt. 19:18)

Isn't it somewhat unusual to spend more than $200 per family (in the U.S.), with many spending as much as ten percent of their annual income, to buy more than 30 gifts (on the average) to give to friends, instead of giving to the One whose birth they are supposedly honoring?

Further, Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:3-5). Yet what could possibly characterize the Christmas spirit more than getting?

From the small tots who tell department store Santas what to GET them for Christmas, to adults who push and shove in stores as they claw over the merchandise to GET what they want to buy so their gifts will GET the approbation of others, to merchants who hope to GET riches from the holiday commerce, to the crying jags and "blues" of inward-turned self-pity, to the spiteful attitude of deliberately making others Unhappy because that's the way you are — from one end of the spectrum to the other, the entire spirit of Christmas is one of GETTING FOR THE SELF. There are individual exceptions, but they are increasingly rare.

Yes, when you really stop to think about it, the incongruities of Christmas are truly overwhelming! Why do some keep such a day anyway? Where does it come from? Is Christmas really a Christian festival after all? What does God say about Christmas? Do you know?

If you haven't already done so, it's high time you took a penetrating X-ray view of Xmas and dared to ask a few questions about it.


When WAS Christ Born?

Millions believe that Christmas is the day on which Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Yet the encyclopedias and other reliable authorities — including the Catholic Encyclopedia — will frankly tell you that Christ was NOT born on this date.

Jesus was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). This never could have occurred in Palestine in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15 to protect them from the cold rainy season that followed that date.

It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain in about mid-October, according to the Adam Clarke commentary, vol. 5, page 370. (See notes on Luke 2:8)

Continuing, this authority states: "As these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was NOT born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact. . . . See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot."

Though the exact date of Christ's birth is entirely UNKNOWN, Jesus could not possibly have been born on December 25! Our in-depth article "When Was Christ Born?" does, however, explain this particular subject much more thoroughly than room permits here. Write for your free copy.

Why then do some observe December 25th as the date of Christ's birth when He wasn't born anywhere near that day? For the answer to that question we have to go back to the origin of Christmas.