The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 18, 2011

BILL EGGERT | Peace on earth, goodwill to all ...

Bill Eggert
For The Tribune-Democrat

— It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, all around the town.

Colored Christmas lights adorn houses throughout the area. My neighbors across the street have their annual life-size “Santa Grinch” gracing their front yard.

The stores and malls are filled with the hustle and bustle of shoppers rushing home with their presents. And children try to stay on their best behavior as Santa is checking his annual “naughty and nice” list.

But is everything really as innocent and wholesome as those Currier and Ives lithographs from long ago?

Christmas commercials (like those obnoxious Lexus ads) pollute the airwaves, and commercialism runs even more rampant than in years past.

People take their life into their hands in the Walmart parking lot as drivers race to their valued parking spaces.

It was even reported that on Black Friday, a woman in California used pepper spray on unsuspecting fellow shoppers so that she could get a deal on her precious Xbox. The 30-something woman also had her children with her, giving them a “teachable moment,” I’m sure.  

In years past, it seemed that people appealed to their better selves during the Christmas season.

Now, it appears that that only thing folks are concerned with is not using the expression “Merry Christmas,” for fear of offending the politically correct police.

One of my favorite passages from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is where Scrooge’s nephew Fred says that Christmas is the one time of year where human beings act like they “… really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Regardless of your religious beliefs, it appears as if our society has become more obsessed with the receiving of gifts on Christmas, as opposed to the real meaning, religious or secular, of the day itself.

I’m not saying it is bad to receive gifts, or to give them.

But the gift-giving aspect obscures the real meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is a time of tradition, of attending church services, getting together with families and friends over dinner, and sharing memories of times past and those who are no longer with us.

I think it is the best and worst of times that really bring home the true meaning of Christmas.

My worst Christmas was 2008, when I spent the holidays in the hospital recovering from a stroke.

No one, healthy or sick, wants to spend any time in a hospital, much less during Christmas.

Fortunately, family and friends stop by to visit, although even they must return home and leave you there alone with your thoughts.

Even though it was a depressing Christmas, it gave me a new perspective – an appreciation that even then things could be worse, as evidenced by some of my fellow patients. Additionally, I was grateful to even be alive.

My best Christmas was 1981.

It was my first chance to spend Christmas back home in Johnstown with my family, after having moved to Atlanta two years earlier.

My folks and Uncle Don met me at Greater Pitt, and even had a life-size Santa with a welcome home sign attached to Unck’s restored ’57 Chevy.

Everyone was happy to see me, even our family pooch, Holly, who practically knocked me over when I arrived back home.

That Christmas seemed much brighter, much happier, than other Christmases Past.

Maybe it was because I had finally realized what was truly important about Christmas.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown native. You can read his blog at