I was listening to a radio station on my way home from work a few days ago as they played recorded phone-in comments from listeners who were offering their take on the commercialization of Christmas. The call that struck me the most was from a woman who claimed that all of the cheap gimmicky tawdriness of the season had completely ruined Christmas for her. She said that all she really wants to do at this time of the year is hide away somewhere until the whole mess just passes her by.
Although her feelings may be a bit extreme, perhaps brought on by all of the emotional, financial and time pressures associated with the season, nearly all of us have, from time to time, experienced similar feelings of disillusionment.
Most of us have had the feeling that Christmas has been robbed of its spiritual meaning, and reduced to a seemingly endless parade of advertisements leading up to a day of sometimes joyless material excess. Somehow, we believe that Christmas hasn’t always been like this. Somewhere in the past there was a “golden age” of Christmas, during which spiritual values and family-centered traditions held sway over cheap commercialization.
Perhaps, though, it is ourselves that are to blame for the degradation of Christmas. It may be true too that advertising has reached an unprecedented frenzy, but it is up to us as to whether we buy into this message. It is always easy and convenient to blame others, or some faceless all-powerful social force, for putting us in the state we’re in. Ultimately, though, all this does is rob us of our power to control our own lives. In truth, every time we complain about the commercialization of Christmas, or spend hours in a line-up to buy the latest toy or gadget, we are contributing to the very thing we are complaining about.
It is up to us, each and every one of us who celebrate the season, to decide how best to keep Christmas. Do you think it’s become too materialistic? Great, then don’t buy as much. Instead of shopping for CDs, video games, or clothes, use your time and money to spend more time with your friends and relatives over the next few weeks. Cook them brunch, take them to a choir concert, or invite them over for a night of playing board games or watching a favourite video.
Perhaps you should consider giving to charities on behalf of the adults on your list, or opting out of those work and family gift exchanges that have become such a routine and thankless experience for many of us. Consider sending a long hand-written letter to the people you care about, instead of a generic and expensive card. If you believe Christmas should be about celebrating spirituality, then spend more time at church. If you believe it should be about family, food, traditions, and music, there is nothing stopping any of us from making these things front and center in our lives. It just means breaking free of the usual expectations.