The following is from Eliot’s “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees.” While less popular than Eliot’s other Christmas poems, it is his last- and probably his most insightful.

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish—which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,

In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to the children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
By “eightieth” meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

Eliot seems to strike the appropriate tone when it comes to the long-held debate about proper celebration and meaning of Christmas. He advocates the innocence and simplicity of an unabashedly sentimental celebration of Christmas – filled with a beautiful tree, bountiful feast, and (yes) new toys. Yet this almost naïve celebration ironically corresponds with both the reality of life and reverence for Christ’s first and last comings. We must embrace this childlike wonder to silence the burden of later experience (Matt 19:14?). The spirit of the season is not idolatry, but a truly Christian “happiness and cheer” in the midst of a loveless world in need of saving.