Black Friday & the Consumption of Christmas.
Against Holiday Judgement.
‘This commercial dog is not gonna ruin my Christmas.’ ~ A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965
If you are looking for quiet this season, remember that quiet can be sought in your heart. It comes best from releasing judgement about how other people do their Yuletide: releasing judgement about the tack and the madness, but to see in everybody that same deep and utter ancient longing for light and warmth, and an impulse to give to others.
Every Black Friday morning, every year, the morning of the day after Thanksgiving, my mother and my sisters embark on their pilgrimage to shop.
They rise in the blackness of an early winter morning, too early for any save monks and yogis or those on a pilgrimage, with a thermos of coffee and an itemized list. They plunge into the terrifying fields of pushing crowds and expectant lines. And every afternoon and evening of that day, I see news of mob behavior in a consumer frenzy, someone getting trampled to a pulp as they were vying for a Wii or a $30 DVD player. and try to imagine my family in their sweetness in that pushing mire: my mother and sisters so odd in the mix. They enter into it with a chipper cheerfulness, a happy consumer ritual.
For years, like a surly adolescent, I did not try to mask my horror. But then I started to wonder what their ritual was all about. And to understand it.
Bad Black Friday behavior arises as predictably as do criticisms about it: not only as regularly as the ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ and ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ propaganda, but also the onslaught of articles in ‘conscious’ publications advising us to resist the commercialism of Christmas.
Just as the Christmas warrior articles smack of judgement, ‘ours’ often do too. Yes, there are arguments of sustainability and maintaining your sanity. The idea of going to stand in a queue at a big box store at 4 a.m. freaks me out. I have the heart of a pagan who every Winter Solstice morning circumambulates a local lake covered in frost, my only company deer and chipmunks and Canada geese, whose holiday soundtrack is songs like the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. I like this peace that I choose, but it is mine.
But there is another peace, another quiet, too. It comes from a deeper recognition that the feeling of the season is translated through the mediums that people know. We live in a consumer world, one where love is often shown through purchases, one where people want to express their deep love for their families by buying them flat-screen plasma TVs and ten-dollar Old Navy sweaters. It is love and that is the form love takes.
The frenzy comes from the fact that Americans don’t have enough holidays, don’t get to celebrate enough. As a pagan I have eight great high holidays a year, all equal in measure, all equally important and significant to the turns of time on this Earth. But most people have all of their main holiday joy packed in to one mad season which has to bear the holiday longings of an entire year. Please go easy on them. Recognize in them a light of love that is bent through the prism of a consumer world, one that not only mediates love for us but also gives us a common, sometimes cheesey language to express it in.
If you are looking for quiet this season, remember that quiet can be sought in your heart. It comes best from releasing judgement about how other people do their Yuletide: releasing judgement about the tack and the madness, but to see in everybody that same deep and utter ancient longing for light and warmth, and an impulse to give to others. For many of us, and I do say us, that raw impulse is translated through the media of consumerism, of the mall and the big box store. People work with what they have to work with. The understructure is still the same. These are new rituals, but they are still rituals. The old gods are hidden within them. Every gaudy light, every cluttered-up rural lawn filled with too many inflatable lighted characters (the ‘Hunter Snowman’ being a particular favorite in my homeland of Southern Illinois), is an effort of sympathetic magic. Try to see it that way: that all the gaudy Christmas crap is the voice of the soul’s longing against the chilly darkness before Yule, every light like an ancient signal fire calling out to the Sun to stay longer in the sky. All of the ‘stuff’ is there because of an ancient longing for light and for love.
Yuletide is coming, it is upon us. Smile and welcome it in all its forms.
Blessed be and love, Laura