Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remember the Little Drummer Boy

Like the song says, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And buying gifts for those we love should be a heartwarming experience. Unfortunately, it can be a heart-pounding experience, a chore, an obligation, and at some stores, a terrible time of pushing, shoving and, ye gads, sometimes even fistfights.

                             Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
                             A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
How did Christmas get wrapped in gaudy commercialism?   

                             Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
                             To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
                             rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

I’ve written about this before, but worth revisiting. The custom of giving gifts to loved ones on a special day in winter probably began in ancient Rome where people gave these gifts as part of their year end celebration to honor Saturn, the god of harvest. The festivities began in the middle of December and continued until January 1st.  It was in 350 A.D. that Pope Julius I declared December 25 as the official date for celebrating the birth of Christ.
                  So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
                  When we come.
                  Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

Saturnalia was considered a festive time for Romans, but Christians believed it an abomination to honor a pagan god. Eventually, the Church was successful in removing the merriment, lights and gifts from the Saturnalia and transferring them to the celebration of a Christian Christmas.

                            I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
                            I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
                           That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
                           rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

In our country, gift giving reportedly began in the 1820’s, though advertising for the
concept began years earlier. By the 1840’s, giving gifts at Christmas became a
mainstream custom in society and grew tremendously in the 1930’s when Coca-Cola  
incorporated Santa Claus into its marketing campaign. 

                                   Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, 
                                   On my drum?

Today, traditions of holiday gift-giving have grown more complicated.  There are questions of money and meaning, of different faiths, of different cultures. To further complicate matters, November and December include Christmas  ( December 25),Ramadan’s Eid-al-Fitr ( timed to the sighting of the new moon, around November 25)Hanukkah (December 19-27) and
Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) all of which have distinct gift traditions. Neighbors, friends, families and co-workers really stress over how and what to give to the many different people in their lives.
                                    Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
                                    The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum 

And now, even as the Advent season has begun, the joy we should be feeling for the coming birth of Christ has been pushed aside by harried shoppers in the frenzy of buying gifts in crowded stores.
                                          I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
                                         I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
                                         rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Let’s get ready for the wonderful birth of Christ.  And, let’s not worry about what to buy. For, in the end, the gifts we exchange do not matter. As the classic “Little Drummer Boy” reminds us, it is the love they represent that does. Rejoice and be glad. The Lord will soon be born and be among us.  
                                     Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
                                     Me and my drum. 

Come, let us adore Him. You can bring your drum.

Pa rum pum pum pum.