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Christmas in the present day is both a sacred religious and secular holiday inspired by the Biblical birth of Jesus. Officially recognized by many governments towards the end of the 19th century, Christmas has emerged into the mainstream culture that has seen it commercialized. Different views exist on Christmas depending on cultures. As a result, the manner in which Christmas is celebrated varies depending on cultural values and beliefs. Part of Christmas' emergence into mainstream culture is its manifestation in films. The portrayal of Christmas in films is a representation of the cultural values associated with the celebration of Christmas in the particular society. The Christmas Card is a film that explores the cultural activities related to Christmas and the underlying beliefs that inspire the celebrations.
In The Christmas Card, former United States army sergeant Cody Cullen is asked by his superior officer to take a leave of absence from the war for a much-needed break. He is given a mission to deliver dog tags to the widow of a colleague killed in action. The widow lives in the town where a church group sends Christmas cards to soldiers on the war front to console them and show their support. Cody meets and falls in love with a woman (Faith) who designed the Christmas card that he got. In the course of their blossoming love and eventual relationship, Christmas festivities take place. This is after he saves Faith’s father (Luke) from a car accident and is invited for the holiday at their home.
One mark of Christmas celebrations in The Christmas Card is the presentation of cards with messages of goodwill. The film is based on a card that touched the heart of a soldier. Cards are given at Christmas time to other people bearing messages of hope, love, inspiration and general goodwill. The church members send cards to soldiers on the front line. Cody hangs a Christmas card on the family’s Christmas tree. Cody also leaves a card for Faith when he leaves after almost giving up on his pursuit for Faith.
Christmas is also characterized by a sense of togetherness that is marked by taking part in the festivities together with family and friends (Forbes & Mahan, 2000). In The Christmas Card, Luke’s family is all at the dinner table for the Christmas festivities. Luke’s decision to ask Cody to dinner following their encounter on the street is partly motivated by the Christmas spirit of getting together to celebrate. Luke would like to have Cody as a part of his family and having Cody for dinner during Christmas foretells that Cody has been welcomed to the family. Cody has no family left in the United States after the demise of his parents. Subsequently, Cody is up for a lonely Christmas since traditionally, Christmas is celebrated with family and friends. The Christmas Card shows one of the cultural values associated with Christmas: celebrating together with family and friends.
Christmas in this culture has also been associated with giving gifts as an expression of love and gratitude (Forbes & Mahan, 2000). The Christmas Card, the family exchange gifts on Christmas morning that are placed under the Christmas tree. The Christmas cards that are sent to the soldiers acknowledge that they are giving the greatest gift of all in their service by putting aside their welfare to cater to the welfare of others. The Christmas cards themselves are a symbol of gift giving that marks Christmas because the cards motivate the soldiers with inspiring messages and the selfless thought that is associated with their making. The church members were thinking of the soldiers and wishing the soldiers the best of welfare despite not knowing them personally. The giving of thoughtful gifts is characteristic of Christmas culture.
Decorations are a common part of Christmas culture (Sullivan, 2008). The Christmas Card reflects culture in the celebration of Christmas with aspects such as decorations unique to Christmas that can be seen in the film. The family has a Christmas tree in their house and many other houses have Christmas trees. Some trees are placed outside and others inside. Shops, other businesses, and churches also have Christmas trees either inside or outside of them. The trees are specially shaped and are adorned with decorations. The decorations include stars, glittering adornments, multicolored lights, and figurines. Decorations also feature on walls and fences. The words ‘Merry Christmas’ are a common feature in fancy fonts and colors.
Opinions may vary on the celebration of Christmas. Fundamentally, Christmas is based on the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. According to Christian history, Jesus was born of humble origin and not in lavish setting. The selection of December 25th has been cited by some historians as wrong because according to them, Jesus was not born in December since by then the calendar system in use now had not been implemented. Dates aside, the setting of Christmas in the present day have been criticized for its commercialization. Christmas is characterized by a lot of spending that is unlike the focus on spiritual wealth that marked Jesus’ life. Subsequently, Christmas is celebrated differently across cultures depending on beliefs.
Christmas has been celebrated in many regions around the world with festivities influenced by cultures associated with Christmas. In The Christmas Card, the celebration of Christmas is marked by families getting together to celebrate, giving gifts to each other, decorating areas with adornments and Christmas trees and generous giving. While some cultures do not celebrate Christmas, those that do carry out the celebration based on their beliefs. Religiously oriented people go to church and remember the birth of Jesus. Secular people may not go to church, but take part in celebrations that have been inspired by the commercial culture associated with Christmas. Christmas is marked by a lot of shopping especially in developed countries and a commercial culture has increasingly grown around it. Christmas is a time of celebration that is influenced by the culture and its perceptions of Christmas.
Forbes, B. D., & Mahan, J. H. (2000). Religion and popular culture in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Sullivan, S. W. (2008). Christmas traditions. Little Rock, AR: Leisure Arts, Inc.
The Christmas Card. Ed Asner, John Newton, Alice Evans. RHI Entertainment Christmas
love story. Hallmark. Not rated. 2006. 84 min. Entertaining. Love story. Emphasizes family’s importance at holidays.
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