It's so easy to criticize Christmas.
But the real Christmas-the one that lives in our hearts-is made up of moments worth remembering.
Don't forget that our country once suffered through a time without holidays. Christmas was banned by the grumpy Puritans who settled New England, and there were no Yule logs or cranberry sauce; no candles in the window. Celebrating Christmas-or even mentioning St. Nick's name - would cost you 5 shillings. Even after the American Revolution, people weren't all that keen about it; Christmas wasn't made a federal holiday until 1870.
It was a dark, depressing time for America, with class warfare, gang riots and high unemployment. The Industrial Revolution brought crime, pollution and horrid conditions for American workers. Living with poverty and strife was commonplace, and there was no holiday to shine its light, to remind us that life could still be enchanting, or spiritual, or special-if even for a day.
Imagine a little English boy named Charles, who was forced to quit school and sell his books when his father was sent to debtor's prison. He worked in a factory to support his family at the age of 12, all the while dreaming of crafting words and writing books.
His story, "A Christmas Carol," brought Christmas back to a world devoid of magic. He reminded people that the holiday could be celebrated inside our living rooms, with a glowing fire and roasted turkeys and merry making with the people we love.
And charity: Charles Dickens brought back charity.
I've always thought that the people who had the least to give celebrated Christmas best. There are stories of children who received a single orange during the Great Depression who would later say it was the most memorable gift they'd ever received.
Stories of struggling families at Christmas abound, and they are always the most poignant: There was the family who wrapped up boxes of eatable treats for their daughter to open on Christmas day-potato chips and marshmallows and hot chocolate-because she'd missed those things when her parents were forced to cut their food bill down to almost nothing.
And there's the woman who asked for prayers on the Internet because she was losing her home. Word spread and donations poured in and $7,000 later her family was singing carols in their kitchen on Christmas morning and giving thanks.
There's a myriad of fathers who have stayed up all night on Christmas Eve restoring old bicycles or building a homemade puppet theater. I love the stories of parents who create something out of nothing, only to hear years later that it was the best Christmas of their children's lives.
It took me a long time to realize these things.
I spent plenty of Christmases feeling badly that I couldn't be the sort of Santa that I wanted to be. And each time, my children would wake up on Christmas morning, tear open the wrapping paper and shout with joy no matter what was in that box.
One of the best Christmas moments I've ever had was going to a Manheim Steamroller concert. The music began, and I had tears in my eyes, because to me, Christmas was the music I remembered as a child and the people who thought to play it for me.
There is a Christmas moment for everyone, every single year: You can find its spirit in the heart of Charles Dickens; in the paintings of Norman Rockwell or Currier and Ives, or the chorus that sings "Hallelujah!" in Handel's Messiah. It clings to the branches of leafless trees, and rises up from the fields of snow, and settles in the steeples and alters of churches for those who celebrate Jesus.
It was found in a bag of potato chips and a box of hot chocolate.
Don't criticize Christmas.
Just steal its moments and enjoy them.
And when you can, think to share them with someone else.