A Sunday afternoon stroll through the local shopping mall revealed the dearth of Christmas decorations. Only two businesses displayed signs in their storefronts that mentioned Christmas. In one, a sign read, “We have your Christmas shopping needs” and in the other store were two small pictures of wreaths encircling the words, “Merry Christmas.” What a letdown. I expected to see people enjoying the season as they shopped, but there was little to distinguish that day from any other.
How times have changed. The Christmas season in America during my childhood, was a somewhat magical time, when a shopping trip to downtown Tulsa was equivalent to a trip to Disneyland, in later years. Bus and trolley drivers greeted people with “Merry Christmas” as did elevator operators, and every department store clerk. Store windows were decorated with fake snow and holly. Inside, the stores were decorated with every conceivable decoration and ornament. Frequently, the store employees were dressed as Santa’s helpers. Huge Christmas trees were normally located near the toy departments and children would stand in line to sit on Santa’s lap, or in his sleigh. Parents, grandparents and strangers alike were filled with contagious joy as they watched happy children.
In those days, the Savior and His birth were not forgotten, or hidden in fear of reprisal. Manger scenes, ranging from miniature to life sized, were prominently displayed. Often, people stopped to survey the scenes, perhaps, pondering the impact of that first Christmas, or perhaps, praying, while others passed without giving a glance, unbothered by the religious thoughts of others.
The atmosphere and experiences of those long departed days, promoted what was called the “Christmas spirit” of joy, peace, and goodwill that clears the human mind and refreshes the soul. It was a time in our history when Americans came together regardless of their faith, or lack of faith, to enjoy the season. It was a time for peace and goodwill toward all people. Even warring armies laid down their weapons on Christmas. It was a festive time, as birthdays should be, especially the birthday of The King.