The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







The Ghost of Christmas Past

Editor's note: JC Bowman asked if his cousin John Eldredge could be a guest columnist this month. John wasn't aware that our publication date was after Christmas but his article makes some timely points anyway.

The Ghost of Christmas Past
by John Eldredge

In Charles Dickens'  "A Christmas Carol," it was the Ghost of Christmas Future that really grabbed ole Ebenezer Scrooge's attention, and finally created within him some  "Christmas Spirit."  The ghosts of Christmas Past and Present didn't have a tremendous effect on Scrooge.  Of course, he did happen to see himself dead and in the grave in Future's version.

I imagine that would certainly have a more profound impact on someone's attitude!  But, in my view, the Ghost of Christmas Past should be the one to have the most influence in helping us all to experience some genuine Christmas spirit.  Because it is the memories of Christmases PAST that hold the most warm and heartfelt feelings for most of us!

Now, for this to seem somewhat sensible, you'd have to be around the age of 50 or older.  I was born in 1950, and I was probably 8 years old or so, before I had some limited realization of what was going on around me in the world  ... not the "whole" world ... just the tiny one that I lived in!

I remember when I was 3 years old and Santa brought me a train for Christmas.  In those days it was pretty much standard that Santa would set the train up in a circle around the Christmas tree and it would be "choo - choo' in" around that track with steam blowing out of the smoke stack when you raced in to the tree on Christmas morning.  Of course, there was actually some space under the tree for Santa to set up the train, since there were not 200 other presents under there with it ! 

The sad ending to this story is that  "Santa" apparently had so much fun playing with my train after he set it up, that he forgot to turn off the power transformer, which burnt the circuits.  By the time little Johnny got there, the train had already "pulled into the station" for repairs ... and the parts had to be shipped from the North Pole!  Oh well, my  Psychotherapist says most people can't  even remember that far back,  and that I must have some special kind of mind. 

Now, back to Xmas past!  Whoa - wait a minute before you get all fired up about me using "X"- mas, instead of  "Christ" mas.  Many Christians, like

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator.  He is Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University. Prior to this, he served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.


myself, have been misinformed for long years about the supposed disrespect of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, by referring to the celebration of his birth with the term "Xmas."  The X actually represents the letter "chi", which stands for the first letter of Christ when written in Greek as "Christos," and the name of Christ had previously been abbreviated as "X" for 1000 years.  The X has always been used in ancient religious contexts and examples of it's use can be found in the "Book of Kells," the ninth century illuminated gospels.

Now, finally ... to Xmas past!  I'm sure that those who are older than me, remember it in even a much different and maybe "better" way, than I do.  I can reference back from the late 1950's, until now and I have steadily seen, year after year, a decline in what I used to know as Christmas spirit and good-natured feelings toward others.  Of course, Xmas was originally intended to be, and still is, a celebration of the birth of Christ.  Then somewhere before my time, Father Xmas, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas and Santa Claus became a part of "The Season." 

Over the years,  there has been constant criticism about how Xmas has become so commercialized  and also how the gift giving and Santa has been disrespectful of Christ ... the "true"  meaning of  Christmas.  But I have always said that "Xmas is the one time of the year when we, as families and humans, seem to lay all our troubles and differences aside.  We give gifts to each other in expressions of our love for each other and we are a little kinder to each other ... even strangers walking by, as we shop for our gifts.  God gave to us the greatest gift that could ever be given, when he gave Jesus Christ to our world as our Savior!  While we can never equal His gift, we can bring our gifts to each other, in the spirit of the Love that God showed for us!

In Xmases Past,  It was "beginning to feel a lot like Xmas" in late November and more so the 1st week of December when stores would put up their Xmas decorations and then the 2nd week of December, when most folks would decorate their homes.  Then the shopping began and the air was a bit more frosty;  Xmas music played everywhere and people selling and shopping in stores were wishing each other,  "Merry Xmas"  and even if you didn't know someone ... you'd  wish'em  a  "Merry One," too! 

There would be Xmas carols sung in church and sung in schools.  There would be neighbors and strangers stopping at houses, to sing Xmas carols .. and they would be invited in for hot cider and cookies.  Things were truly merry and bright!  Stores used to be closed on Xmas Day,  so that employees could be home with their families ...  Except for Bob  Cratchit!    I realize that times have changed tremendously.  People travel on Xmas Day and they need services like food and gas and healthcare,  etc.  And some folks don't have a special place to be on Xmas Day and they need somewhere to go, like a restaurant.  But, we used to know that the stores would be closed and we got what we needed before  Xmas Day!  Do these merchants think that we won't purchase their goods and then come back after Xmas , to buy some more ? 

The part that really bothers me is the way that Xmas has been crammed down our throats earlier and earlier each year.  This year,  Wal-Mart began putting Xmas decorations on their shelves in the middle of September!

Proffitt's started decorating their stores the next week.  I asked a sales clerk,  "Have I fallen asleep and missed Halloween and Thanksgiving and it's Xmas already?  She said, no ... we have to do this to compete with Wal - Mart!  I told a Wal-Mart employee that I thought it was ridiculous that they were putting Xmas out so early and they agreed and also told me that even though their store is closed on Xmas Day ... many of the employees have to come in to work, to take down Xmas decorations. 

I wonder what happened to all that Xmas spirit that was so plentiful in September?  I have, in the past, shopped regularly at Wal-Mart, but enough is enough!

People, we have been robbed of our Xmas spirit! By the time December even arrives, we are already so sick of Xmas that we can't wait for it to be over and gone.  We have allowed the retail world to do this to us and I have been just as guilty as the next person, by participating in the early shopping frenzy, myself!  Christmas PAST will never completely return, but if we could only capture a bit of it here and there, perhaps it would make a difference.  Maybe we would have those warm feelings again and wish each other Merry Xmas ... or if you HAVE to be politically correct ... "Happy  Holidays!"

Do you think we could feel Joy in our hearts when we hear "Silver Bells" (if someone would play it again).  and, maybe employers would start closing their stores so that their employees could spend all of Xmas Day with their families and loved ones ... if we would stop shopping at their stores on Xmas Day, or in Wal- Mart's case, penalize them the day after Xmas; maybe 2 days.  Do you think they would ever get the message?  We won't know until we do our part to cause it!

My son is 31 years old (1972).  His generation and those after him have never experienced a Xmas past like some of us have known.  If we don't attempt to show them what it could be like, who will show them?

It's not all about tons of packages under the tree and going hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt. It's not about a shopping rat race, fighting to get in some store's front door at 6:00 AM, to get a box of Cracker Jack (not  "Cracker JACKS") after standing in line since 4 or 5 AM!

It's all about being with family and friends, sharing a gift or two and some good food and time!  It's about remembering the true  "Reason for the Season" and teaching our young children and grandchildren about that ... A lot of children absolutely do not know!

If we could just find the Ghost of Xmas Past and bring just a little part of him to life again ... it would be the greatest Xmas present that we could ever give to ourselves!

Wishing You a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!