(Note: I originally wrote this in 2009. Opted against updating the dates.)
Over the years, I’ve stepped back and thought about what Christmas has become. Like many things, Christmas originally started out as something simpler, certainly nowhere near the corporatized behemoth into which it has grown.
To me Christmas is nothing more than an opportunity to drive around the Midwest to see family and friends. The possibility I may receive gifts is a bonus, but nothing more, and not something I expect. If I can afford to give, I will. Needless to say, and my mother I’m sure will agree with this, I am not the same person I was growing up.
Yet I look around both where I previously lived and where I currently live, and I wonder why everyone else’s perception of Christmas is quite the opposite.
Christmas in this society appears to have become the epitome of selfishness and competition. Friends, both young and old, have verbal competitions over what they “got”. People “want” this and they “want” that and they are upset, especially kids, if they don’t get what they wanted, and especially upset if they don’t get anything at all. And they are also more than willing to run themselves into debt in order to satisfy these wants along with their own.
There are Christians all across the country screaming “Put Christ back into Christmas” while swiping credit and debit cards, draining bank accounts and racking up large amounts of debt, and for what? Hypocrisy? You cannot scream “Put Christ back into Christmas” and spend yourself blind without looking like a fool. You are only being as materialistic as Jesus warned against. He preached humility and charity, not materialism.
Personally it would not bother me if my family opted to not exchange gifts, as they did in 2004. Truthfully over the years it has actually become my preference. I would still travel to see my family, not only because that is what Christmas is really about, in my opinion, but also because I’ve grown up on my father’s Christmas cooking, and well… I think you get the idea. The last couple years, whenever my family has asked me what I “want” for Christmas, I instead ask that they focus on what they feel I might need. Last year that was definitely the case given the hard times my wife and I were going through.
And now that times are better, my wife and I are humble. We have few wants and little needs, and we are living below our means, a trend I hope will continue through 2010 as we hunker down and start to get aggressive on our debts. All that we really want is to be better prepared for the future, and we hope we have learned from any mistakes of the past.
If you are afraid that your children won’t like or love you unless you get them something for Christmas, you need to re-think how you’re parenting your children. And don’t tell me that “I’ll understand when I’m a parent”, because basically what you’re saying is “I don’t know how to respond to what you’ve said, so I’m instead going to just tell you to shut up and hope you do.”
And before I part, I have one other group to address…
Atheists, please do us all a favor and shut the fuck up. No one cares (except you) if the current Christmas traditions are derived from the pagan traditions around the winter solstice. If you’re offended because someone decides to say “merry Christmas” to you instead of “happy holidays”, perhaps you need to get yourself checked out. And while you’re getting yourself checked out, be sure to have a glance at the calendar so you can see what the recognized name for December 25th happens to be.
The fact that you are buying presents for your children while screaming “I object” with regard to Christmas and its various and varying traditions only makes you look like a hypocrite. “No, it’s because of religion in schools and religion-this and religion-that that my kids expect presents on Christmas.” (I’ve actually heard an atheist say this to me.) Uh no, it’s because of a little thing called marketing. And one question: you give in why?
It’s all marketing, just like it’s marketing that will be bringing us Valentine’s candy and merchandise at Wal-Mart shortly after New Years (if not next week). It’s because of marketing that Christmas stuff has been on display since Halloween (and in some cases earlier) and Halloween stuff was on display after Labor Day when all of the “Back to School” sales ended. Do you understand?
So please, sit down, shut up, have a candy cane and peppermint schnapps, take a breather, then get back out there and swipe your credit card like everyone else