Bah! Humbug

Columns Opinion

Let’s stop the Christmas nonsense, Mr. Cratchet

By Pete Helms
Campus Life Editor

Some might call this the most wonderful time of year, but I disagree. I would actually venture to say this is the absolute worst time of year, and nothing I could write could fully express the vitriol I hold for the “holiday season.”

“Holiday season” is in quotes because no one is even sure when it begins and when it ends. Fox 2 News reported how some area stores had begun putting out Christmas decorations as early as late August. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the iconic Christmas emporium in Frankenmuth (at 25 Christmas Lane—gag), is dedicated to the idea that Christmas never ends on Dec. 25. Kmart and Amazon began advertising holiday gifts (specifically toys) just before Halloween. Many people are justifiably up in arms with commercials mocking their own companies by showing trick-or-treaters being followed by groups of carolers. It ‘s simply getting out of hand, and it needs to stop.

This is, of course, my primary argument against Christmas and any other gift-oriented holiday or celebration. When the focus of a holiday becomes gift-giving, it does two things—first, it commercializes the holiday and makes it about money (after all, cash is king), and secondly, it creates an obligation to give. Christmas is [supposed] to be about the birth of Jesus in Christianity (more on that below). Commercializing the holiday robs it of its meaning of God giving mankind the gift of a messiah. Secularizing and commercializing a holy day in such a fashion is not only silly, it’s morally reprehensible.

In addition, the obligation created by the expectation of gift-giving destroys the purpose of gift-giving in the first place. The whole point of giving a gift is to show someone that you pay attention to the needs and desires and that you want to fulfill said desires and needs. Creating the obligation to give, whether explicitly or implicitly through overall social pressure, cheapens the whole act of giving, from thought to exchange. As Lycourgos, the famous lawgiver of ancient Sparta once told the Spartans, it is better to give small gifts often than lavish ones once or twice a year. Unfortunately, that’s not something we do in ‘Murica.

The giving of presents also becomes a competition for many. At least on a subconscious level, many people judge how the giver values them based on the value of the gift they receive, a concept I experienced as early as fourth grade. This can create doubt and stress in the giver’s mind—does she love me for me or the diamond tennis bracelet I bought her? It’s also rough on the receiver’s mind, because if the giver “out-does” the receiver’s gift, it could cause the relationship to deteriorate if only because of the latter’s perceived inferiority. Worse yet, one party may buy a gift for another without receiving one back, which can cause tension as well. All in all, this is a terrible way to keep people moving happily along in their lives.

I think I would be more amicable to the Christmas season if it were still a religious holiday. Unfortunately, the march of secularism and the resounding drums of atheism have only served to remove the reason for the season. This is disturbing, even to many non-Christians and polytheists like me. It helps to erode the piety that is so essential to any fulfilling religious practice by pushing out the religious elements of the celebration. Even if people still attend church on Christmas day, many are “Christmas and Easter” Christians who only attend services on high holy days, ignoring the message of their faith and fellowship of their congregation the other 363 days of the year. This sort of disingenuous devotion-on-demand piety should be offensive to all people regardless of their theology (or lack thereof) because nothing should be “just good enough” when it comes to conviction or worship.

Alas, all of this adds up into a culture of materialism, commercialism, and false devotion that erodes the human spirit and crushes the soul under a veneer of red and green. It would be better to simply do away with any celebration whatsoever than to continue such disparaging traditions.