What Christmas means to the Jesuit Community

There’s a lot of imagery that surrounds Christmas. 

In Catholic tradition, the Christmas season celebrates the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary. Angels announced this good news to shepherds in a field, who found him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager. Three gentile wise men, guided by a star, traveled to visit the new-born king and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, as now, it is a time of revelation, wonder, and joy. God is with us.

Christmas cookies, carols, lights, and presents have created another picture. From generation to generation, folklore has transformed Saint Nicholas into the legend of Santa Claus, a jolly figure on a sleigh of reindeers, who brings joy and gifts to the delight of children. 

In both images, there is celebration. There is family. There is love. So, in this joyous season, what does Christmas mean to the Jesuit community?

Isaias Iniguez-Sandoval ’21 recalls the dual meaning of Christmas in his upbringing and elaborates on how his perspective has grown and expanded.  

“Coming from a Catholic family, I was raised with a two-fold approach to Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ and the domain of Santa Claus,” Isaias said. “Although, now, both of these perspectives are still part of my life, Christmas is about a time of love and kindness, especially this year. People associate Christmas with giving presents or buying the most expensive decorations, but I’m just glad that I get to spend some quality time, uninterrupted, with the people that I love and care for.” 

Reflecting on what Christmas means, Michael Roush ’21 and Christian Hyde ’22 describe what they associate the holiday with. 

“For me, Christmas is the total embodiment of family, love, and good food,” Michael said.  

“For me, Christmas has separated from its origins of Christianity [and] is more so about all of the traditional Christmas decorations (trees, ornaments, lights, presents) and getting together with family,” Christian said.

Robert Lee ’22 details how this time is related to the spirit of the season.   

“To me, the most impactful part of Christmas is probably all of the festivities,” Robert said. “The holiday itself doesn’t really hold any special religious meaning to me personally, and I’m not particularly festive, but the festivities are a nice change of pace from normal life. I think Christmas is basically an excuse to do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, which is stuff like putting up Christmas decorations, listening to the upbeat and happy Christmas music, and giving and receiving gifts.”

When observing what Christmas means to Jesuit students as a whole, DJ Hoang ’21 connects  the holiday to the school’s motto, “Men for Others.”

“Christmas resonates with the Jesuit community because it allows us to be men for and with others,” DJ said. “Christmas is a time for me to spread love and positivity not only to my family and friends, but anyone and everyone who needs it.” 

Touching on a different aspect of Christmas, Wellness Counselor Mrs. Kasey Cardinale explains how this time grants a sense of hope and lessons in love. 

“Christmas for me is the hope of new beginnings,” Mrs. Cardinale said. “Christ’s birth is a reminder of the immeasurable love my God has for me. It is [an] opportunity to reflect and to notice the signs and surprises that teach me more about how to love more intentionally.” 

English Teacher Mrs. Heather McLean-Morris ruminates on what this year’s Christmas means in relation to the annual celebration. 

“Christmas 2020 cannot be without hope,” Mrs. McLean-Morris said. “Let me give you two words to describe my feelings this Christmas, and every Christmas: thank you. While I’m a believer in the magic and pageantry of the holidays…the trees, the carols, the gifts, the lights, the food, the gatherings (oh how I miss the gatherings…), Christmas is and always has been a gift of transformation. God became man and thus, gave us the same gift of transformation.” 

Mrs. McLean-Morris continued: “Christmas to me is a time to reflect and transform—to be and live more like Christ. To pause at the year’s end and receive Grace. To offer help to those who need it most, to spread the love of Christ.” 

The season also gives a chance to be introspective, Jesuit President Father John McGarry S.J. articulates some of the questions that can be asked in the examination of oneself.

“The celebration of Christmas, which is the celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ into our world, is an opportunity for all of us to ask ourselves: How will Jesus Christ be born in some new way into my life this year? What is on my mind and my heart as we celebrate this birth of Christ in 2020?  What are my hopes for the new year? Jesus was born into the world and into our lives to save us and set us free, once and for all, and every day. The meaning of Christmas is grounded in our call to pay attention to how we might receive Christ anew and follow him in our lives. He is a gift to us! Merry Christmas!”

For the Jesuit community, Christmas means Jesus, new beginnings, family, reflection, love, giving, Santa Claus, and festivities. Regardless of how Christmas is celebrated, it is a season of mystery with expressions of joy and love felt as much through the symbolic gestures as it is within. From the staff of The Plank, we wish all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!