It’s not because of the gifts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas presents. But to be truthful, I could take them or leave them.
I was raised by deepwater fundamentalists, children of Depression-era people. For holidays, we got a generous helping of Jack squat.
When I was 10 years old, for example, I received a pair of khakis, baseball cards, and a can of smoked oysters.
“I don’t care about gifts,” my grandmother would often say as we unwrapped presents. Then she would recount a childhood story about how she had no shoes at Christmastime.
Meantime, Granddaddy would be eating my oysters and speaking with a full mouth. “Speak for yourself,” he’d tell Granny. “Getting presents excites the hell out of me.”
It’s not because of snow. In my part of the world we don’t get much snow. Things are never bright white and snowy. Things are gray and soggy and everyone has seasonal affective disorder. So instead of making snow angels we just consume alcohol.
It’s not because of the food. My people eat a diet consisting almost exclusively of various cheese products and refined sugar at Christmas. I usually gain, at minimum, 60 pounds every year.
It’s not because of Christmas parties. Although, I do miss parties. I read one study claiming that Christmas parties are down 87 percent from the 1970s.
“Americans just aren’t into Christmas parties…” one study said. Parties in general are becoming a thing of the past. The study even stated that fewer high-schoolers are partying now than ever before in history. “They’d rather play on their phones,” said the study.
It’s not because of Christmas music. Although I do love when the radio plays Bing and Old Blue Eyes. I love Gene Autry singing about what jerks Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen were.
Neither is it because I love household decorations. I love a good balsam fir, and twinkly lights warm my soul.
It’s not because of Santa, either. I love Santa more than the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Nick Saban put together. But the Big Guy isn’t the reason I love the Yuletide.
I’m not a smart man, but the reason I love Christmas can be summed up in three words:
Over 69 percent of Americans say they are more generous at Christmas. Big companies give huge sums of money. Little businesses donate truckloads.
The Boy Scouts of America start buying gifts for kids in foster care. Churches place Christmas trees in the foyer, and collect gifts for the neglected.
Since 1992, One Warm Coat has collected 8 million coats and distributed them.
The Angel Tree program has given over 11 million gifts since it was founded, giving gifts to kids whose parents are incarcerated.
Last year, Americans donated 9.2 million shoebox gifts to Operation Christmas Child.
The Salvation Army receives $557 million dollars during the holiday season. The Red Kettle campaign alone rakes in almost $120 million bucks.
In South Carolina, during the holidays, police officers give motorists frozen turkeys instead of speeding tickets in an annual event called “Turkey, no Ticket.”
Toys for Tots distributes over 8.8 million toys to kids in need.
And don’t even get me started on how great United Way is.
You can see them everywhere. Good people. People who willingly become the best versions of themselves.
Soup kitchens amp up output. Walmart puts Angel Trees in the lobby. Target has the Great Giftogether, providing thousands of families with holiday essentials.
Police departments in Florida give gifts to at-risk children. Fire departments in California donate supermarket buggies. Junior leagues, Girl Scouts, Little League baseball teams, elementary schools, high schools, and even congresspersons.
For approximately 30 days, Americans get excited about helping. Goodwill in the air. It’s in our drinking water. It’s on TV. In every shop window, newspaper ad, community center, and fellowship hall.
And, well, as the old man might say: That excites the you-know-what out of me.