I came very close to chucking the entire holiday season this year.
Not only because the world economy is making it particularly
challenging in terms of mustering holiday cheer, but our personal
economy wasn’t faring too well either.
On the surface it seems any sort of celebration would be obscene in
the face of so many people losing their homes or facing the threat of
The conundrum, of course, is that right when everyone wants to
hunker down and have a quiet, frugal holiday, retailers need everyone
in a buying frenzy. Retailers need you to aim for The Best Christmas
While I sympathize with this line of thinking – it’s been governing
our economy for a very long time – I’m still not buying. For years
retailers have manipulated our fears and emotions to their advantage.
Sooner or later it was bound to bite them back.
I have no choice but to scale back this year, and I have no qualms
about encouraging others to do the same. It’s high time we took back
Christmas and turned it into the holiday it was meant to be.
But first let’s address the elephant in the living room; the glib,
know-it-all elephant that annually needs to point out that:
* Jesus Christ was not actually born in or even close to
* That not everyone is Christian but are still forced to in some way
observe the holiday;
* People exchange a lot of money at Christmas;
* That most of the rituals we use to celebrate Christmas are Pagan
Quite honestly: Yawn.
As I said, there is a lot of money exchanged because of Christmas,
and it isn’t all among Christians. Be thankful if you still get
something called a Holiday Bonus or even an office holiday party,
Christian or not.
There was, as a matter of fact, an attempt to rid the Christmas
holidays of all the Pagan and Germanic accoutrement – by Oliver
Cromwell. He almost succeeded too and we would be having very dismal
Christmases indeed were it not for a poor romantic-headed Englishman
with an ironic sympathy for the poor of his country. The Christmas we
enjoy today is not so much Pagan, as Dickensian.
A lot of what is now interpreted as “commercialism” actually started
out as a genuine, heartfelt tradition. I thought of this when I noticed
there was an abundance of treacley Christmas movies being advertised
for the Hallmark Channel, all with suspiciously similar plotlines and
requisite tinselly set design. Hallmark’s annual holiday movie used to
be high quality screenplays with impressive casts featuring no less
than the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Glenn Close and Christopher
Walken. I guess Hallmark sensed how popular their holiday fare had
become and, in true American fashion, now offers up an overabundance of
formulated watered-down imitations. Since they care enough to send the
abysmally mediocre, Hallmark employed every out-of-work 90s sitcom
actor and male 70s television actor that could remotely be decked out
to look like Santa Claus.
So taking back Christmas is going to involve some digging of
information because we’ve gotten so used to purchasing the Hallmark
version of traditions. The most baffling practice I’ve seen was a woman
I knew who annually had a florist come in and decorate her house, right
down to decorating the large tree in her living room. The more
unsightly “children’s tree” was sequestered in the basement. We’ve
forgotten that what made the holiday was the process, not the end
Finally, there is the gift-giving. I don’t know of anyone who is not
scaling down in this area, but I do wish we would stop with this
depressing impoverished attitude and take this opportunity to
re-evaluate what, exactly, a Christmas gift represents.
A Christmas present is different from a gift given any other time of
year because, for believers, at Christmas a gift is a token; a
representation of the gift that Christ was to the world as stated in
John 3:16: For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten
How does that translate into an iPhone?
Well, it doesn’t. And that misrepresentation is the niggling
discomfort we’ve all felt in previous years when, for just a second
perhaps, we knew that something just wasn’t right.
So this year will be very different at the Jackson house. It won’t
be as grandiose and decadent as some of the past Christmases. It won’t
be nearly as exhausting. It will be infinitely more memorable.
It will be The Best Christmas Ever.
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