It seems that every year, just around the time that string lights and inflatable Santas start to fill up America’s front yards, people start bemoaning the fact that We as a People have lost sight of what Christmas is Really About. Instead, all we care about is buying and exchanging stuff.
It’s true that the Christmas season is now synonymous with consumerism. But I’m not sure why this bothers or even surprises people. Why wouldn’t we, this consumerist society, with an economy almost completely dependent upon buying unnecessary things, do what comes naturally during our favorite holiday?
From the moment you are born, or even conceived, there is a gift-giving schedule in place. Depending upon how long ago you were born, your parents received anything from a few gifts from close family or friends to a full-blown baby shower. (Possibly several.) Then there are the annual gift occasions, primarily birthdays and Christmas. Don’t forget that the idea of “graduation” has been watered down to a point that kids practically graduate from each grade in school.
To say nothing of the potential of weddings, subsequent anniversaries, and, closing this nice little loop, a baby shower or five!
We give gifts at major occasions in part because we’ve been manipulated and exploited by the companies and industries that make a huge profit off of same. After all, that Black Friday is so named because it’s the day that many companies finally move into the black: ie, make a profit for that calendar year. Neither should you forget that the last several years have given us Cyber Monday, when the people who spent Thanskgiving weekend shopping at dawn return to work in a daze…and spend their workday shopping online.
But these companies are only partly to blame. We wouldn’t be so easy to manipulate into gratuitous purchases if not for the fact that we have an inclination to give our loved ones tokens of our love. Gifts. It feels good to watch someone you care about open a gift from you that they love. I’m not sure how long gift-giving in some form has existed in human history, but I’m pretty sure it predates Macy’s.
How problematic is it, as well, to start editorializing what Christmas is Really About? Some worry that it has been diluted and secularized in our modern age. To get to the real meaning of the Christmas season, you have to go back to olden times, when Christmas was about the birth of Jesus. Or, you could go back further than that, to the Yuletide winter festivals of yore, that were pagan celebrations until they were absorbed by Christianity. Then there are simply the many, many people for whom Christmas has been, and still is, simply a nice occasion on which to head home and spend a few cozy nights with the people they love. So, who is celebrating Christmas the “right” way?
The older I get, the more I feel that, as long as hatred or violence aren’t involved, I really don’t care what other people do. Christmas can mean whatever people want it to mean. Even buying stuff they don’t need.