A Shortish Take On The Real Spirit Of Christmas (Part 1)
I am one of those people who use the word Christmas to describe the upcoming season. No offense meant to anyone who calls it something different. Christmas is what I grew up with, and it just doesn’t feel right calling it the Holiday Season, because too many people are working their asses off from now till the end of the year and that would be insulting to them.
This weekend was kicked off by the infamous Black Friday. A lot of Americans, and I’m sad to say Canadians too, lined up in front of some Walmart or Best Buy looking to score a bunch of Christmas presents on the cheap.
But just think about that for a minute. Think about what that really means. And how it really relates to Christmas.
The Magnificent Obsession
Living in a materialist society like we do, the emphasis on material expressions of love and appreciation at Christmas time have become so deeply ingrained in our social fabric that one could actually argue it is something of a mass obsession.
Every store you go into is playing Christmas music non-stop. There are two channels on my TV that are showing virtually nothing but Christmas movies. There is a Christmas story on every newscast and of course there is all the advertising. The perfume companies, diamond companies, car companies, candy companies, toy makers, toy sellers, game companies and, of course, Coca Cola.
What we don’t seem to realize is that many of us have, over the course of our entire lives, become totally addicted to the idea that we have to buy gifts, big ones and lots of them, for people at this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no real problem with gift giving per se. My problem is the incredible amount of pressure that is put on people to live up to the mass expectation that has been built up about gift giving.
On Black Fridays there are millions of people shopping like crazy. They are tense and stressed and angry. Somebody invariably gets beat up. Somebody else gets knifed or maybe even shot. A bunch of people get arrested. And a bunch more are either injured in the fray or disappointed that they didn’t get up early enough to grab the juiciest bargains.
This is all pretty sad if you ask me. And I’m not putting myself above this. I’m sitting here myself with a bit of concern that I only have three odd weeks left to get whatever it is we’re going to get for our kids and grandkids and each other etc.
With all that frenzy is it any wonder that the holidays approach like a runaway train and are over before you know it? The month of December feels like it’s only about a week and a half long. Then bang, it’s all done.
The Real Art Of Gift Giving
My wife likes to watch a lot of period dramas and I like some of them myself. They had it right back then. One material gift for the people you care about the most and then the other, a more precious gift…the gift of time. The gift of simply being with each other. The gift of sharing a meal and having a drink and simply enjoying each other’s company.
But when I look around, I see very little in the way of tranquil joy. Instead, what I see is a lot of people in a hurry. A mad rush that will last from now till Christmas Eve.
Taking the time to celebrate the season without the crushing pressure of the outside world and all its buying frenzy is what the Christmas season used to be about.
Somewhere in the exponential growth of the 'shop till you drop' economy, and the non-stop pressure put on people by advertising everywhere they turn, most of what we now call the tranquility of Christmas is really exhaustion as we recuperate from the stresses that have become so much a part of the season.
I know it sounds reactionary, but I really do miss the old days when Christmas was all about family and friends and to a much lesser extent about Christmas shopping and cultural curses like Black Friday.
And if you stop to think about it for a moment, I imagine you might miss it too.