Just because something is sentimentalized does not mean that it is untrue—or even that we are wrong to layer it over with sentiment. The distaste for sentimentality begins as a rebellion against false feeling, but it finishes as a rebellion against all feeling. It starts as a plain-speaking person’s refusal to be deceived by a coat of paint, and it ends as a rude person’s refusal to use paint at all. It opens as a wise man’s ability to point out the fool’s gold, and it concludes as a fool’s inability to point out the real gold.
For on this point, we dare not be mistaken: Christmas is the real gold, and all the sentimentality with which we gild a thing already golden, all the evergreens with which we decorate a thing already evergreen, all the holly boughs with which we mark a thing already holy—all these are not some vain attempt to mask the truth. They are, rather, the tribute that sentiment will always try to pay to true things, on the same principle by which a wife chooses the prettiest wrapping paper for her husband’s most expensive gift on Christmas morning. What need had the King of Kings—what need had a newborn child in a cattle shed—for the awful oblation of frankincense and myrrh laid before him by the Wise Men? And yet those men were wise, as we are wisest only in our greatest foolishness.
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