Ginnie Graham: Christmas Is about Faith and Making Memories

Article excerpt

The traditional 1 a.m. breakfast at an all-night diner goes back to my childhood.

Grandma insisted we toast Christ's birth after midnight Mass, and the only place open was a truck stop off the nearby interstate.

Some people usher in the holiday by opening a present on Christmas Eve, caroling at their neighbors or watching "It's a Wonderful Life."

Our family hoisted sodas over pancakes and sausage with truckers unlucky enough to be on the road and needing a respite.

I still remember the older waitresses with dyed, piled-high hair happily joining our revelry as we sang "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

That time remains my Christmas sweet spot for happiness and melancholy.

It's when the secular chaos is wholly overshadowed by the religious.

Presents are wrapped, the feast is planned, and school and work are on break.

It's when the focus goes to how faith impacts my life.

More secular, less religious: Increasingly, more Americans are forgoing the religious aspects of Christmas.

Nine in 10 say they celebrate Christmas, and three-quarters believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.

But only half view Christmas mostly as a religious holiday, while one-third see it as a cultural event, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Among Christians, nearly all (96 percent) celebrate Christmas, and two-thirds view it as a religious observance.

Among U.S. non-Christians, 8 in 10 observe Christmas but most do so as a cultural holiday.

Generational differences are significant, as younger American are less likely to incorporate religion into their Christmas celebrations.

The under-30 set are less likely to attend a religious service on Christmas or view the holiday as religious.

What's in a name? Everything: Christmas is about religion.

It's in the name -- Christ's Mass.

All those Advent calendars and wreaths are rooted in Christian faith.

"Advent" is a word of Latin origin meaning "coming toward," and believers use this time to prepare for the feast of the Nativity. …