The Miracle of Christmas

The Christmas season is when most people are held hostage by gift-giving and gatherings with families they may or may not want to see. There’s no point in fighting it, but maybe I say that because most of my family is easy to take.

At my house, we did the tree and the presents. We went to our parish church on Christmas Eve for the transubstantiation of the host wafer. And, speaking of miracles, we sat on the couch and watched our video cassette of the movie Miracle on 34th Street. I don’t know if it’s ironic or appropriate that St. Didicus Catholic School, which my kids attend, is actually on 34th Street in San Diego.

This time of year you hear a lot from the school and the church about the “reason for the season.” Just for the record, I believe Christmas is a winter solstice celebration that Christianity has hitched a ride on. I suppose it’s common for established religions to ride pagan vehicles to get the word out.

But let me get back to that pagan miracle movie. Seeing it today you’re stuck by the old-fashioned acting styles and heavy sentimentality. Even so, this movie is smart and clever and it tells a good story. Just in case you are one of the dozen people who haven’t seen it, Miracle is about an old man in New York who really believes he’s Santa Claus. He gets hired as the Santa Claus for Macy’s department store until an in-house psychologist, who doesn’t like him, claims he’s crazy and tries to get him committed to a loony bin.  

The happy ending sees Santa being released by a judge, following his commitment hearing. The daughter of a woman, who works for Macy’s, decides this Santa is the true Santa after her single mom and the mom’s fiancé are lead, by Santa, to the suburban home of the little girl’s dreams. The home is up for sale, the adults say they’ll buy it and the Christmas miracle is complete.

 It’s this final part of the movie that’s always galled me a bit. The little girl believes in the spirit of the holiday because she gets to leave her mom’s downtown apartment and live in a detached single-family home on Long Island.

Miracle was made in 1947 and it reflects the material aspirations and housing trends of the time. But I find it strange when a movie that spends half it’s time decrying the commercialism of the season ends on a note that is brazenly materialistic.

If owning your own home is the American dream then it’s a dream that’s come true for me and I may have no right to be tough on this movie. The message of Miracle on 34th Street seems to be that our greatest dreams will come true if we can only have faith. I’d just find it more inspiring if our greatest dreams weren’t only about owning bigger and better stuff.

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One Comment on “The Miracle of Christmas”

  1. Jim Fudge Says:

    I was reading back on your blog and noticed you remarks on “Christmas, Miracle on 34th St.” I haven’t watched that film for years and I know that you and your family enjoy watching it on the occasion of December 24th. I know that you like it even though it ends with the traditional passing out of presents. And true, the entire event is a copy of the pagan Winter solstice what with the yule log and the celebration of that time of year, but that’s O.K. with me. The perfusion of gifts does bother me. A few gifts between members of a family or with friends is fine, but then one has to deal with relatives from afar who try to make up from their absence with lots of as you say, stuff it’s a bit much. Guess one can’t rock the boat on that, but still the act of getting together of friends and relatives is some sort of nice!


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