According to every holiday special I’ve ever seen, Christmas is supposed to be a time of pure happiness, when everyone comes together to celebrate life. Charity, generosity, rosy cheeks and merriment for all. This is “the true meaning of Christmas.”
But if you’ve been paying attention at all, you may have noticed Christmas has shifted from the idea of charity to consumerism. I’m not a professional when it comes to the history of the holidays. I’m well aware there have been one or two Christmases before I was born. But even hearing about “the good old days” from my elders hasn’t convinced me Christmas hasn’t always been tinged with the rampant need to spend money. It is unfortunate that media have pushed the commercialization of the holidays down our throats. I suppose we can’t really blame them, since they do get all their funding from the very companies that we buy from. But somewhere in this mess of sales and Black and Cyber days of the week, I feel like we’ve lost not only our way but also our destination.
News channels host pundits professing their outrage on whether someone should wish them Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Last year, a man was trampled to death in a New York Wal-Mart during a doorbuster (literally) sales event. This year, to counter this, the same store stationed security squads with ominous, black hoodies to handle crowd control. Whatever happened to chestnuts roasting on an open fire? I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually said “humbug” to this idea. After all, the Sherlock Holmes movie is coming out Christmas Day this year! There are just too many important things to be done. We can’t spend a whole day shut inside. Our economy would collapse!
Now, I know writing this is about as effective as shouting into a vacuum. I also know having negative thoughts around Christmas time is almost as time-honored as Santa himself. But most importantly, I know this: Scrooge isn’t a single figure, his persona is found within all of us. We have to understand what defines Christmas. It isn’t the gifts or the decorations or the tree, even if we spend most of our time and money on those things. The holidays are a time for coming together. Presents and trees and feasts of roast beast are simply props to gather around.
I think we could all use time to forget about how much money to spend on each friend and family member and more time thinking about who they are and what they mean to us. Feeling genuinely appreciated is a far better present than a gift certificate to Best Buy. The most important parts of the holiday season are the people we are celebrating it with, not the gifts we buy for them. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I wish you all well on your exams. I hope you can take some time and think about how you are going to spend your winter break.