Of all the festivals that we keep throughout the year, Christmas has the most secure hold upon our hearts and imaginations. We are not celebrating the birth of Jesus, though well we might and with deep reverence, for the story of his life, whether fact or myth, has sweetened the days and strengthened the spirit for countless millions of men. Nor are we rejoicing with the pagans at the return of the sun-god with his healing and creative powers, for though we admire the vigorous imaginative vision of the ancients, we do not see through their eyes, and their splendid truth fades for us into a weak figure of imitative fancy.
There is an innate power in men to refashion age-old customs to present purposes. Our Christmas means to us the periodic restoration of harmony in our human relationships. Some men spend the year dragging their feet through mud in pursuit of unleavened material pleasures; others seem to hang by their teeth to an evasive ideal of spiritual life. We follow our separate ways to personal or impersonal power and satisfaction. But at Christmas we call back our centrifugal energies from their non-human goals.
Then our feet press the good earth in the middle of the road, and for a short while we go along cheerfully together, taking pleasure in each other's company. Families are reunited. Giving gladdens us more than receiving, and sharing is felt to be an even greater blessing. Working with others to create a pleasure to be actively enjoyed in common is found to be an experience so delightful, that memory clings about it to the end of life. The mere turning of the year brings us round to the time when custom helps us to enjoy our essential being as individuals participating in an infinitely varied relationship to other individuals.
We need not be entirely at the mercy of blind custom, fed as it is by the superstitions which cluster round dead forms of poetry. Christmas may be for us a yearly reminder that the final aim of philosophy and education should be mastery of the art of living together, the art of consciously producing harmonious cadences in the symphony of human life.