Lucy swears it’s just a big commercial racket. Princess Leia (or at least her alter ego) though it was about kindness. Mo Rocca says it’s a stocking stuffed with sugary goodness. And Chizu…well, Chizu’s not a fan.
You don’t have to go further than your local mall—and in fact, the mall’s a good place to witness such diversity—to see that Christmas means a lot of different things to different people. Actually, you really don’t have to go further than your living room. Flip on the TV and see Christmas movies galore about a variety of topics, most clumped together in this gooey feel-good, warm feeling that represents the holiday. Switch the channel over to Crunchyroll, and it’s not quite that, but you get an even more diverse selection of themes relating to Christmas.
One of my favorite anime this past year was Tsuki ga Kirei and, for instance, it had a Christmas episode…kind of. The characters treated the holiday with a lack of deference that’s suprising for anime, but maybe pretty accurate. The action in the series takes place during Christmas, and the holiday plays a part in episode 11, but it’s not the thrust of the episode. In fact…I don’t want to snitch, but I don’t think Kotarou was even planning to buy Akane a gift before she sent him a text message asking to meet up.
The holiday serves as a brief respite for the two students, who are each studying hard. Akane’s studies are going smoothly, it seems, but Kotarou…well, Kotarou can’t turn into a model student so suddenly, even for love. And so, for Kotarou and Akane, Christmas is a brief break. It’s a blur. It’s an inconvenience. It is not white.
Add it’s an opportunity to smooch.
Kimi ni Todoke, a series I love love love, goes a little bit of a different route. The entirety of episode 22 revolves around Christmas. I don’t think you could say the episode drives the plot forward at all, but it does emphasize some important themes of the series while making us all wish our high school lives were so romantic.
Sawako, still unraveling the concept of friendship and in awe that she has people who want to be around her, is pleased to be invited to a school Christmas party—and doubly or triply pleased when Kazehaya, the all-everything man of shoujo, personally insists that she come. But Sawako, ever-dutiful, doesn’t ask her parents for permission after being reminded how important the holiday is to her father.
Later, Sawako is able to get a touch of Christmas with friends as the episode reminds us that in Kimi ni Todoke, Christmas is about friendship. It’s about love. It’s about family. It’s about tradition. It’s about romance (“Silent Night” plays as Kazehaya’s smile comes into focus in a snowy night scene). This series, like Tsuki ga Kirei, makes the holiday about all sorts of things.
But this bothers some people. It can drive some Christians batty, for the good reason that a season meant to honor Christ often doesn’t. But while many consider themselves warriors, battling in this “war” on Christmas, they may forget that culture in not the battleground and non-Christians the enemy, but that the latter are the sheep and the earlier the proof of how well the sheep are being cared for. While in my household, we strive to keep Christ-centered during the season (not always successfully, I’ll admit), I also try hard not to make others feel the same, lest I become less like Christ to them and more like, well, the Grinch.
I’m imploring you—and the truth is, I sometimes need to preach this to myself—that if you start becoming bitter during the season, remember that you may be the problem. Remember that love, the love that came for us on Christmas, is the solution. And perhaps you can change from the Grinch of the first 2/3 of the special to the one in the last 1/3, and find your heart growing three times as large, big enough for all the people who don’t celebrate the holiday the way you do, and still be able to say to them with a heart full of love, no matter how they celebrate the season, “Merry Christmas.”