Seeking out the true meaning of Christmas

xmas - lenaPerhaps it’s because ‘Black Friday’ is just around the corner, or maybe it’s because Christmas themed commercials have been encouraging me to shop since the beginning of November, but once again I find myself questioning the overwhelming value our society places on consumerism.

Before we even have time to digest our Halloween candy, marketing teams and ad agencies go to work filling our heads with thoughts of Christmas. Amid red coffee cups, Santa Claus parades, and the hypnotizing sound of Christmas tunes, it appears the holiday season’s true meaning is forgotten.

I don’t doubt that the meaning of the holiday season is different for everyone, but can’t we agree that Christmas ought to be about spending time with friends and family, celebrating these relationships and ending the year on a positive note? It looks to me like this is no longer enough as our appetites for consumption continue to grow.

In echo of our ‘appetizer, main course, and dessert’ model of dining, Christmas has become another excuse for people to overindulge. Well before Christmas Day actually arrives, corporate gimmicks such as ‘Black Friday’ encourage us to ‘shop til we drop’ for two full months.

I don’t use the words ‘til you drop’ lightly. A quick search for ‘Black Friday fights’ on YouTube will provide you with a disturbing display of consumer lunacy. But hey, all in the spirit of the holidays!

What’s worse is that after two courses of unadulterated consumption, Boxing Day encourages people to shop even more.

Seemingly unsatisfied with all they have received, thousands of people pile into malls the day after Christmas, fighting each other for the last piece of pie.

In recent years, Boxing Day has transformed into Boxing Week, suggesting that this trend towards consumer greed is only worsening. Is this really what we want the holiday season to be about?

Evidence that unashamed consumption has become the focal point of Christmas is also seen in overly specific ‘wish lists.’ You know the ones; they include every detail minus a hand drawn map to the store, taking any aspect of heartfelt thought or spontaneity away from gift giving.

Being short on cash this past summer, I was forced to get creative for my girlfriend’s birthday. Rather than asking her what exact item she wanted me to go buy for her, I took some time to think about who she is and what’s meaningful to her, and handmade her something instead.

Her reaction was priceless and it made me realize that gifts have the potential to be so much more than items found in a weekly flyer.

This holiday season, when you find yourself in a Wal-Mart parking lot fighting the old woman next to you for that 52” Samsung TV that’s on sale, take a moment and remember the simple lesson of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”

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