Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Already Bogged Down on Christmas

Am I the only person who noticed the Christmas products in all the major stores BEFORE October 31st?!  I was only a little bit shocked.  I mean, I know Christmas is kind of a big deal to a huge majority of the population, but this is just ridiculous.  The pressure to consume this holiday season is intense.  Christmas decorations in October?!

Really? Has it come to this?

I don't understand. There are so many holidays between October and December. There was Yom Kippur and Sukkot at the beginning of October (and Rosh Hashanah at the end of September), Diwali and Samhain at the end of October, All Saints and All Souls day, Dia De Los Muertos, Thanksgiving and a whole slew of others in November, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, St. Nickolas Day, a whole bunch of other ones I either don't know or can't remember.  And yet everyone is all gaga-freak-show over Christmas.  And not even religious Christmas, oh no.  I'm talking secular Christmas. Am I seeing nativity scenes dominating the market this year? No. I'm seeing red white and green dresses on barbies, hundreds of fake trees, NFL themed ornaments, and a bazillion jolly santas holding coca-cola bottles.  Because Christmas isn't about the birth of Jesus anymore, it's about consumerism.  It's about spending hundreds of dollars on decorations every year to impress the neighbors. It's about showering little kids with presents from a fat guy who breaks into your house once a year. It's about who buys the most expensive gift, and who receives the most stuff.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of other reasons people celebrate Christmas, including celebrating the birth of Jesus, giving back to the community, and giving as opposed to receiving. And Christmas isn't the only holiday to turn into a consumer circus-- I mean, Easter is saturated with chocolate bunnies and eggs which have pretty much nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ and more to do with older pagan fertility symbols and spending money on "chocolate flavored" candy byproduct. And just look at Halloween!  Until recently I would've considered the American celebration to be one of the most commercial of all the recognized holidays, with its sweatshop costumes and seemingly limitless supply of substandard candy (seriously, how much of a hershey's chocolate bar is actually real chocolate?).  However, when I walked into a walgreens to buy some hand sanitizer and saw the Christmas decorations right next to the Halloween section, I realized that Christmas might have Halloween beat.

And the worst part of it all is that I know all of this-- my brain is bombarded with consumer Christmas almost constantly; every TV and radio station is playing Christmas commercials for Target and Wal-Mart and Best Buy, there are already coupon books for Black Friday and my email inbox is inundated with junk mail about getting my "holiday" shopping done early so as to miss the customer rush.  I recognize that the Secular Christmas is just another excuse to buy in excess, and to celebrate a holy day that isn't fully holy anymore. And yet I find myself secretly counting down the days until Thanksgiving so I can start playing Christmas music at work, and absentmindedly making Christmas lists in my head for what I have to buy for Christmas presents this year.  Since I've aged out of the "Magic of Christmas", I've spent every year telling myself that I will not participate in the fanfare-- I will not buy presents, I will not sing carols, I will not go into stores on Black Friday, I will not make my apartment decorated for Santa-- and every year I somehow conveniently forget all of these assertions in favor of blending in with the masses.

Why? Why do I continually participate? I mean, I'm not a Christian, so there's not need to celebrate religious Christmas (no nativity scenes on my altar), and I'm too poor to buy stuff so I have no reason to participate in Consumer Christmas, so what gives? I mean, I even have a whole other Holiday to celebrate, and it shares similar themes to what Americans pretend Christmas is: exchanging gifts, giving to the community, celebrating with family, feasting, etc. Yule even has the theme of birth (or rather rebirth-- as the longest night of the year, it is seen as a rebirth of the sun, with everyday after Yule becoming consistently longer, and the sun gaining strength). I have my excuses; "But my parents want me to come visit for Christmas, and I don't want to alienate them on their holiday," or "But the food is so goooooooood," or "But Christmas songs are so catchy!" However, this year I've truly begun to examine what Christmas stands for and what I stand for, and the two are not congruent. This doesn't mean that I think everyone should stop celebrating Christmas; I think that people should be able to celebrate whatever they want, and as a proponent for religious freedom I believe that Christmas should be recognized among the many different religious holidays of the winter season on equal ground. However, I don't think Christmas is for me. It does not align with my religious or political beliefs, and in the interest of my sanity and conscience I need to wean myself off of this holiday and start fresh.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

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