Saturday, November 10, 2007

An Immodest Proposal

With Halloween over, and retail outlets, malls, and even a municipality or two already cranking out Charlotte Church Christmas CDs over loudspeakers and hanging so much green you almost forget it's winter, the whakos trot out their annual "War on Christmas" shtick. Like all bad jokes that just won't go away, one tires of hearing the same-old same-old again, but these folks are incapable of relenting.

I want to submit to my readers the proposition that there is indeed a "War on Christmas". It is being waged on multiple fronts, and it has been going on for most of my life, and perhaps even before. "Christmas" was, for most of the history of the Christian faith, a relatively inconsequential feast-day; Epiphany, Easter, shoot, even the Assumption of Mary and the Annunciation were bigger feast days. With the advent of capitalism, however, and the insistence that giving gifts is part of participating in the love of God ("the Wise Men brought him gifts, so we should, too") we had the marriage of bad economics and worse theology creating a demon child that has wrested itself loose from any kind of control. We are quite literally super-saturated with Christmas by the time December 25 rolls around. We are swamped with the same 25 songs being done by mediocrities. We have to look at tinsel, lights, snowmen, reindeer, and every Santa imaginable. Entire stores seem dedicated to trying to induce the gag reflex by the amount of Christmas crap they can stuff in to a space.

Now, unlike Halloween, I am no Grinch or Scrooge about Christmas. I love the day, I love the season. I always have. In our house growing up, decorating began on December 1, and took place over the course of the four weeks running up to the day, culminating in the tree, which sometimes wasn't completely decorated until the 24th. All five of us have our special bits that we did; mine was a lovely plaster-of-paris stable scene, with a wonderful old wooden stable. We kept it in a model box of a Boeing 707, that had probably been my brother's. Usually the second week of December, my mother would bring it down out of the attic and I would set it up on the corner end table in our front living room, right under the white plastic Christmas tree, festooned with glitter, with the rotating disc of colored lights underneath. To outsiders, I am quite sure this sounds tacky, but I never thought so, and still don't. I loved it then, and my memories are not at all tinged with nostalgia because I loved it all.

As an adult, however, who gets avalanched with bad music, appeals to BUY!BUY!BUY!!!!, and ends every trip to Kohl's or the Mall with a headache from sensory overload (all that green gives me a migraine), I do believe the war on Christmas is one our retail outlets wage against the public. I have no problem with gift-giving; I have a problem with the endless reminders from media outlets that retailers depend upon Christmas for a large percentage of their yearly sales, and the fate of capitalism as we know it hinges upon whether we buy our kids a PS3.

My older daughter told my wife last week, "I don't want any presents this year. We have so much stuff we don't even use. Let's give that money to people who don't have anything." That's Christmas right there - not Mitch Miller And His Gang piped in over the PA in Target as we wait in endless lines to buy garbage.

For the past several years, my wife and I have not bought each other a whole lot. I get her a gift card to a store she likes; I get socks (which I always need), and underwear (which no man can have too much of), and a card. Our kids get one big present, and a bunch of practical stuff, like clothes. They don't own a video game system, nor are they particularly interested in one. We don't have access to television, so they aren't bombarded with demands to purchase stuff the TV tells them they have to have in order to survive, like Brats dolls or the latest Hannah Montana shirt. My older daughter likes books, she likes horses, and she likes music. My younger daughter likes books, she likes dogs, and she likes clothes. They're not demanding at all.

My family is contributing our bit to fight back against the War on Christmas in two ways: (1) We aren't big spenders, but talk about the baby Jesus a lot, and who this baby will become; (2) We say "Happy Holidays" to everyone we meet.

Virtual Tin Cup

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