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For the love of giving thanks, part two

December 12th, 2013

About a week ago, I was wasting time on Pinterest and stumbled onto this quote about Christmas that said, “Being an American Christian means celebrating the birth of a Jewish savior by receiving gifts beneath a Pagan tree from an obese, German trespasser.” At first read, I thought this quote was really funny because it’s actually quite true. The more I thought about it though, the less funny it became. It’s actually quite sad to me now thinking that this is what Christmas has become today, and most people don’t even realize this.

I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that stores have begun putting out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year, and I also can’t tell you how many people pointed out the absurdity of me putting Papyrus’ Christmas cards on display in the store in the middle of October. It was definitely reassuring to see that at least some people were outraged at our company choosing to promote Christmas before Halloween had even happened, but then that was all crushed when other people came in and asked when we would be getting more Christmas cards.

I understand that, for most people, Christmas has a very magical and heartwarming feel to it, and why shouldn’t it? For Christians, it’s the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which was a pretty big deal. For non-Christians, it’s a time to embrace the spirit of love and generosity. Obviously, these are all great things, so it makes sense that people want to celebrate it as much as possible. Christmas becomes not so great, though, when people become so wrapped up in the idea of giving and receiving that, like Thanksgiving, they forget why the holiday was created in the first place. Christmas has a pretty extensive background, stemming from cultures before Christianity was even practiced. There are a lot of differences in the way it has been practiced throughout the years, and obviously it is now primarily celebrated as a Christian holiday, but the baseline of Christmas has stayed the same in every culture and every age: it is a celebration of life.

Somehow, over the years, the holiday has changed into one that doesn’t really celebrate life, but instead promotes greed. I’m not accusing everyone who celebrates Christmas of being greedy and forgetting the true meaning, nor am I pretending that I don’t get excited by all the cute, fun things that come with the season like decorating the tree, wrapping gifts and listening to holiday music. The point is that commercialism is again making us forget why we even started celebrating in the first place. The way most retail stores promote Christmas nowadays doesn’t celebrate life but instead fosters greed and furthermore ignorance of the more important things in life.

People freak out about Christmas like it’s the most important thing that happens all year, but the reality is that most don’t even know exactly what they’re celebrating. As the Pinterest quote indicates, it has become a giant bowl of all kinds of religious practices and no one even really realizes it. I think it’s fine to borrow practices from other cultures, but the point is to understand the deeper meanings behind those practices and celebrate them too.

That is not what most Americans do these days. At least, not from what I’ve seen. What I’ve seen is the media shoving these superficial, consumer-driven images of Christmas in our faces and people being manipulated into thinking that the holidays are about who has the best decorations and prettiest trees and nicest gifts. I think it’s appalling that our society is literally so obsessed with appearances and, even more so, with  consumerism that we forget what we are even supposed to be celebrating in the first place. When did fighting other shoppers for the last Barbie doll in Target become a way to celebrate life? Aren’t we supposed to be happy for all of the things we already have?

I will say the same thing that I said about Black Friday – it’s about time to stop focusing so much on shallow things that detract from our humanity and start remembering what we are supposed to be celebrating in the first place. Please.