Monday, December 1, 2008

Manufactured Christmas Cheer

It's that time of year - again. Christmas, that is. Oh, I love the family reunions, the food, the Christmas church services, and playing Wii together, but Christmas has almost always felt a bit, well, fake to me - has it to you?

Not fake in the sense of most people's sincerity when they say, "I'm going to spend as much time as possible with my family," "I want to get my kids that special thing," "I want to do what I can for kids who won't have Christmas presents this year." No, I mean the Christmas fluff - the songs, the Christmas movies, the cards, etc. Christmas these days smells of a manufactured holiday, not unlike Halloween or Easter. The thought that a kid won't be happy unless they get what they've wanted all year, the thought that grinding "Jingle Bells" into cerebral grooves just once more will contribute to the Christmas spirit, the thought that Christmas isn't Christmas without a fully decorated yard and house is what has led to fake Christmases that we live each and every year. What gives a Christmas tree it's "Christmas spirit?" We do. A tree is a tree is a tree. We give it meaning, where otherwise it would have none.

Our society has evolved into one that is a consumerist society, and consumerism rears it's ugly head especially hard during Christmas season. The toys that moms and dads buy their kids will be thoroughly abandoned and forgotten by the next Christmas season, and often parents do their kids a disservice by buying them toys that "all the other kids want," without thinking that buying what they want is merely status-elevating through consumerism. We are a unique culture in that we attribute status to certain objects and gratify our need for community status by buying these objects. Is this what Christmas has become? A status-grabbing race? Who's to thank for that?

We are. You can try to heap the blame on "manufacturing corporations," but corporations don't make what isn't in demand (now if only American car makers would apply this concept). If people don't demand Cabbage Patch Dolls, TY Beanie Babies, and Webkinz, then manufacturing companies won't make them. Very simplistic.

On a much less deep level, what irritates the bejeebes out of me is the phrase, "Happy Holidays." I want to hear, "Merry Christmas," if you please. I understand that there are "other religions out there that don't celebrate Christmas," but I think it's a little ridiculous to go as overboard as we've gone with the holiday political correctness. We have become a society of fear. "Oh good lord, if I offend this particular religious, racial, economic, political group, then I will lose status in the eyes of my community and..." It's become completely pointless, it's as though we have a medically-untreated bipolar society with whom we have to step on eggshells to keep from being the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak. Be offensive, for once. I want to hear, "Merry Christmas," please.

On another level without depth, I'm just going to throw out there that many of today's Christmas songs are unintelligent, meaningless, and trite. Most carols are there just to recreate the "Christmas spirit," which encourages consumerism, which encourages status-grabbing, which in turn encourages pettiness and the "Mememememememe" attitude. There are plenty of beautiful and lyrically-genuine Christmas songs out there such as "What Child is This, "Joy to the World," "O Holy Night, (the song to sing if you want to get a record deal)" but those aren't sung nearly as much as "Here Comes Santa Claus," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," or "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer." And good grief, let's cut the "it's so good to be home for Christmas" themed songs. Yeah, it's good to be home for Christmas until you realize the next morning why you moved out in the first place.

So! Have a Merry Christmas with your family. Eat too much food. Scream at whatever referees are in charge of whatever football game with your uncles. Give your cousins little annoying toys that make insipid noises until the batteries die. In the meantime, remember that Christmas would be pointless if Christ hadn't come to earth admidst our meaninglessness and given us a meaning to live out. DON'T take Christ out from Christmas during your familial celebrations.

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