For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (bold is the editor’s)
Christmas and video games, for me, are like chocolate and peanut butter. Two great tastes go great together, as they say, and my experience shows no different.
I honestly can’t remember a time when video games didn’t constitute the vast majority of a Christmas experience. The odd vacation popped up here and there, covering the holiday in a distinct lack of virtual entertainment veneer, but even then portable consoles filled the void. Long continuous drives for near twenty four hours made finishing the odd JRPG in the back of a car easy (and still doable today, of course!). Christmas vacation turned into a sit-down affair, especially when some new epic SNES classic came into our home.
Honestly, most of my Christmas lists came from a cursory wandering in Toys’R’Us or a long, long rental process. My brother and I completed most of Final Fantasy VI (III, for those of you in American contexts circa 1994) when it suddenly landed on a rental shelf. Back then, we’d just extend the rental time rather than buy a nearly-70 dollar cartridge, but some games you NEED to own. In a surprise to no one, nearly every year that the SNES remained current provided its own Squaresoft classic to discover, unearth, and completely destroy within that post-Christmas week. Playing it or even watching it (as in my case) remains one of my cherished memories…ones that, all said, I am continuing to make.
Perhaps it doesn’t take place on Christmas, and perhaps I need to cajole said brother into playing it, but we find long epic games to play and complete. Recently, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword turned into that recent slog. Too long to complete during Christmas, we had to set a time every week to see the experience through; considering its length, though, it also helped me to write my MTS thesis at the exact same time. Still, I like watching video games, and from the number of people engaging in the process of Let’s Plays, I’m not alone.
Christmas does feel special, certainly. Even though knowing the wonder of Christ’s birth shouldn’t localize the event (like a bombshell rocking history), we still find ourselves in the vicissitudes of the Christmas season, which varies from magical time of year (and white snow) to horrible, horrible rage at long lines and missing deals (and yellow snow). There’s something about the traditional red-and-green decorations, Christmas lights, and all those familiar trappings that, even though they represent the aesthetic trappings, still continue to resonate.
And yes, that includes the red ball of giant old man known as Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, what have you. As an adult, the concept and the implementation sound like the biggest white lie ever told to children, and a further complication in explaining how a man in a sleigh with reindeer can deliver gifts to two billion or more children every year. Somehow, we continue to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus, elves living in the North Pole making toys, and flying reindeer. It’s such a strange cultural fixture that we continue to export around the world. He represents the glitter of commercialism, of course.
Yet, I find that such a simplification of Santa Claus. He’s not meant as the goal of the season in Christian circles, that much remains certain. We celebrate the birth of the Messiah, of course, and then the jolly fat man enters the picture. Think of Saint Nicholas as symbolic more than an actual existent thing. He shows us the spirit of giving that makes the whole season work. Jesus was a gift to humankind, and so we continue to give to each other in remembrance of His gift to us.
As they tell me, I’m a bit excited when Christmas rolls around. As a child, I would literally shake with anticipation as to what gift would emerge out of the wrapping. Would my list of wants and desires be fulfilled this year? I haven’t been disappointed yet, both in the material and the spiritual department. The gifts keep on giving, and I keep giving the gifts to people I love. Isn’t that the whole point? Kids are a bountiful wellspring of intangible gifts, and that is the same every year.
If you’re seeing the commercialism, you’re seeing the glass half empty, and not half full. The fantastic nature of the gift emerges from the myth of Santa Claus as we know it now. See the child within and you will see more of what Christmas truly means. I’ll leave you with Chesterton’s thoughts on the matter:
What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . . What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.