Food For Thought

The Real Meaning of Christmas

by John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D.,
Contributing Columnist
Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John E. Bonfadini
John E. Bonfadini

December is the month in which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. 


I can remember the time when it wasnít politically incorrect to wish someone a Merry Christmas. Today there seems to be some confusion about what this time of year represents. Some believe that wishing people a happy holiday would be more appropriate and less offensive to those not of the Christian faith. So in our schools and many other places, the Christmas part of December has been filed in a cabinet drawer and replaced by something called the holiday season. Itís not the season we are celebrating, but an important part of the history of the world that is represented by the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is the time to ask all religions to join in the celebration of Christís coming, as I would wish that all Christians would respect the beliefs of others and be joyous about their celebrations of faith.


And Christians can disagree on how to celebrate Christís birthday. One way of sharing my personal joy at Christmas is to erect a yard display. First set up in 1968, it evolved into a tradition in the Manassas area. Last year I resurrected this tradition after an eight-year pause due to family matters. The display has not been without controversy, and I relate the following story to show how individuals can view the celebration of Christmas differently.


A young priest was making a point about the real meaning of Christmas ó the birth of Christ should always be remembered as the reason we celebrate Christmas. Inspired by his homily, I repainted and enhanced the nativity-scene part of my display, which also includes many Christmas and cartoon characters. The display is mechanized with 14 motors. In early December the following year, my wife and I attended mass with the same priest. He began by again emphasizing the importance of remembering Christ as the main reason for the holiday. He then used my Christmas display as one of his illustrations on how people were placing the wrong emphasis on Christmas. He said, ďAnd then there is this man in Sudley who has this display with Batman, and all these characters in the front of his house and off to the side he has placed Christ. He should have placed Christ in the center of the yard Ö  Ē  He continued on about the display, not realizing that the owner was sitting just a few pews in front of him and that everyone else in the church knew the family except him. 


After mass I approached him and informed him that the display belonged to me. He was somewhat stunned and quickly apologized, saying if he had known it was one of the churchís parishioners, he would have not used the illustration. I responded by saying he should refrain from criticizing anyoneís effort to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is about a babyís birth and a joyful time for many children. The characters displayed are creations of God, Who is working though the minds of man to spread great joy. The display is for Godís most precious creation, the children of the world, both young and old. I invited him to view and bless the display, which he did.


So, as society continues to discuss what the season is all about, let me invite you to my home and wish you a Merry Christmas. You can personally drive to 7500 Forrester Lane, Manassas, Virginia, or enjoy it on the Web at The Bonfadinis are also looking forward to celebrating the birth of our eighth grandchild in December, so you may also see a stork in the yard along with a new display. Many people have asked if they could donate to help with the display costs. Our family has been greatly affected by the diseases of cystic fibrosis and cancer. Donations to these organizations at a time of giving are always appreciated.


Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

6931 Arlington Road

Bethesda, Maryland 20814


American Cancer Society

P.O. Box 22718

Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718


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