War Against Christmas

I’ve launched a full-on assault against Christmas this year. It’s war, and I’m hoping others will also take up the standard. Well, in all honesty, it’s more of a partial assault this year, but brewing to the full-scale assault for next year and in the years to come. The war I’m talking about is the fight against the incredible commercialism that has become “Christmas.” Not the Christian Holy Day, but the Hallmark- and Toys-R-Us-created holiday.

It hit me this year more than ever just how commercial we’ve become with Christmas. Every year we see the decorations going up earlier and earlier; the stores are putting out their Christmas displays and merchandise after Halloween, now; and the “holidays” of the season have become a single mashup rather than several very distinct holidays (and holy days).

The other day, I was listening to the radio and they were discussing how ridiculously funny and insane it was many years ago, when children would receive an orange and some wooden buttons for Christmas, and they’d be happy with them. Yet is that really what’s ridiculous? Or is it the image of a child diving into the mother-load of presents and having a fit because one of the items he asked for wasn’t there?

What this vision of “Christmas” is teaching children is greed – plain and simple. When it comes time for Christmas (which, in today’s terms, means the day after Halloween), they give Santa Claus (or Mom and Dad) a long and comprehensive list of toys, gadgets, and electronics they want with a full expectation they will get everything (if not nearly everything) on that list. It’s no longer a list of wishes, but a list of demands.

[As an aside, when I was growing up, we also had lists of what we wanted for Christmas, but they were suggestions, not demands; and we never expected the complete list to appear beneath the tree on Christmas morning!]

Then, when Christmas morning comes, they hungrily run from wrapped present to wrapped present, devouring these gifts, completely overwhelmed with sensory overload while frothing at the mouth sitting in the middle of a pile of new toys and colorful wrapping-paper-trash, their eyes spinning with excitement. What they learn from this experience is that they can demand what they want and expect it, no matter how long that list of demands may become.

And yes, I know I’m generalizing. Not all children are like this; but I dare say the majority of them in the United States are, because they were taught from very young: no matter what they have, it’s never enough and they should always ask for more and throw a tantrum if they don’t get it.

As adults, it hasn’t changed much. We feel a sense of obligation (and I’m using that term in a negative sense) to anyone who gives us a gift that we must return the favour with a gift of equal value. It’s no longer, “I saw this and immediately thought of you and just had a get it!” Rather, it becomes an exercise in futility, pounding one’s head against the wall trying to think what you can get for someone within a $$ range, and after 2 weeks you’re still pounding your head trying to think of something. (Then, on the other end of the spectrum, are those that give absolutely no thought whatsoever. You know; the ones who pick up gift basket of hair care products when you don’t have hair.)

That’s going to end this year.

We’ve already started the ball rolling and cut back on the commercialism of Christmas, and I’m hoping others will read this, share it, and follow suit. It’s time we took action ourselves instead of waiting for someone else to start it, and stop buying things simply because the commercials are telling us we have only 7 days left till Christmas to buy things for people that they don’t need. I still have the image of the husband panicking on Christmas Eve, running to the convenience store because he forgot to buy a gift for someone, and grabbing the only thing that’s left: a gallon of milk!

Moving forward, let’s turn our thinking around in the other direction. Instead of buying gifts for people who don’t need anything (or who have jobs and can buy stuff for themselves!) we are going to make donations to worthy organizations that have missions to help those in need. Instead of buying useless presents for people who don’t need, we’re going to give help and assistance to those who do need. We’ve searched for local organizations that help feed and clothe the poor and needy locally, and are pulling out the checkbook or credit card, and making a donation for each person in the amount that we would have spent on that useless gift.

Then, having done so, we will spend time with the people we know and love, give them a card or handwritten note telling them of the donation that was made in their name, and give them the gift that has infinite value that only we can give: the gift of our time. Like I always say: Life is too short to be taken too seriously. But it’s also too short to miss out on the friends and family we love, and too short to turn our backs on those who are in need.

I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas this year.