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Who Needs Christmas?

by Angel Valdez

Many wish someone would do something about Christmas. The feast is a national pastime which often has little to do with the meaning of the word Christmas or its origins.

Beginning preparations for buying things have just about moved back to the fourth of July.

Some feel we need a new independence day to declare ourselves free from the hype and fierce commercialism of the national holy day called Christmas.

Some ask what in God’s name does this junk-bond, cheap, gaudy commercial event have to do with Christ or Mass?

Still others hate the idea that they must give – or worse yet, that they must go shopping – even with the “convenience” of online shopping.

Is this no longer a free country?

If they don’t participate, they are put in the Scrooge category. For them, Christmas becomes a department store.

Some use Christmas shopping and spending to distract themselves from depression or boredom. The credit card bills come later.

Who Needs This Kind of Christmas?

Who needs this kind of Christmas, especially with  scandals and corruption everywhere – in the Church, in the government, in schools, in business, in Hollywood, in privatized prisons and detention centers, with daily news that could bring us to the edge of despair?

At a time when it is difficult to find signs of hope, we can turn from the buying frenzy to the deepest meaning of the birth of Jesus, God assuming our humanity and somehow still accompanying us in the terrible drama of our times.

 Children Stolen From Their Parents and Others Killed by Bombs

Ostensibly the commercial celebration is to bring happiness to children. The contrast with the commercial celebration and the realities of the lives of many children is stark. As we write, 560 hundred young migrant children who were kidnapped by the government and separated from their parents are still alone and imprisoned. And a total of at least 12,800 children, unaccompanied minors, are in custody. More jails are being built and expanded for children.

What will Christmas be like for them? What will it be like as the government makes plans to keep newer families together, but imprisoned for long periods of time in inhuman conditions?

It is hard to see how we can celebrate Christmas without thinking of these children and the birth of Jesus and his Holy Family becoming refugees.

As we shop this year, can we remember the 40 children on a bus on a school trip in Yemen this past August, killed with U. S. bombs purchased by Saudi Arabia? And the millions of children in Yemen at risk of starvation.

The Consumer Christ?

The passion to shop, to buy, to consume, becomes unbridled during the Christmas season. Even the poor are infected with it, with the little they have.

Witnessing the orgy of Christmas buying by shoppers elicits primordial feelings that leave us uncomfortable and with a sense that things are out of control.

Unleashed is the madness to consume that is somewhat held in check during the rest of the year by the parameters of reality.

Advertisers have no shame in appealing to the basest of human appetites.

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, addressed the issue. She said, “We are all guilty of concupiscence (desires of the flesh), but newspapers, radios, TV and the battalion of advertising people [Woe to that generation! – her words] deliberately stimulate our desires.”

Advertisers can get people to buy anything, especially at Christmas.

Dorothy said that there are many sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance—for example, depriving a laborer of his hire—but she said that there is another, “to instill in him (the laborer) paltry desires so compulsive that he is willing to sell his liberty and his honor to satisfy them.”

Who needs this kind of Christmas to celebrate the Savior born in a poor stable?

Teaching Greed

Children are asked every day after Christmas what presents they received.

The birth of the Son of God means that this is the day that they receive a lot of presents.

Some triumphantly and others anxiously compare their Christmas loot with their peers.

If they don’t receive what they ask for, they are broken-hearted because they will have to confess this to their peers—the heck with this Baby Jesus in the manger stuff.

Children ask for and are given gifts that have nothing to do with their development, growth or character.

Children are taken to see Santa Claus and encouraged to ask for whatever they want.

Gifts are given that appeal to being in style or that are popular or that appear on television ads that make us and the children want to receive them.

Think of how mortified are the children who don’t receive the latest rage or of their parents who are blackmailed to the point of being considered un-American for not conforming—or not being able to afford to conform.

And we don’t hear much about gifts that children have purchased for their parents or creative things that they have made for them.

Greed seems to be the creed.

Has Christmas been stolen by the greed of advertisers, parents and children?

Do We Really Need This?

Do we need this cheap, gaudy commercialism to be able to celebrate Christmas?

Do we need orgiastic mobs invading the Galleria, Walmart, the malls and Amazon.com the day after Thanksgiving?

Do we need to promote Christmas as a Feast of greed?

What Do We Need?

We must steal back Christmas!

We need to celebrate Christmas!

We need Christmas badly – to reflect on what really matters in a time of discouragement, to remember that Jesus came to bring Good Tidings to the poor.

We need the birth of Jesus in our lives.

We need to celebrate Advent in preparation in order to avoid being overcome with despair and anger.

The Magnificat

by Angel Valdez

We need to sing the Magnificat, as Mary did when word came to her that she would be the Mother of Jesus on that first Christmas and reflect on her words:

“My soul sings the glory of the Lord…

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty…

He has remembered his promise of mercy….”


We need wise women and wise men seeking their stars.

We need to tell and retell the Christmas story to our children.

We must make room in the inn.

We must be great gift givers. We need to give with our lives and our time and our talents.

We need to advertise the spirit of generosity.

We need to tell our children about the need to avoid greed.

We must give gifts that are thoughtful and meaningful.

We must give ourselves.

Christmas is about giving.

Special Gifts


by Angel Valdez

Christmas is more than giving money or receiving it. The Christmas attitude of giving, of service, of remembering the birth in the stable, of giving gifts can continue throughout the year.

At Casa Juan Diego we are keeping our sanity in what must be described as dark times by responding to the poor, the hungry, or the very ill person in front of us, knowing that this person is Jesus in a perhaps decrepit disguise.

In his letter in the Bible, St. James said that all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. He adds that true religion is caring for orphans and widows (the poor) in their affliction.

The peace of Christmas be with you all now—and every day of the year.

L.Y.Z, M.L.Z. ( R.I.P.)


Houston Catholic Worker, October-December 2018, Vol. XXXVIII, No 4.