Is it just me, or does the holiday shopping season seem to start earlier each year?
Halloween decorations were still on shelves when Santa Claus and his merry band of animatronic elves mounted their offensive. And, just like that—faster than you can say Dasher or Dancer, or Prancer or Vixen—the cackling witches, plastic ghosts and black cat figurines were gone.
Animatronic elves. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? Two to three feet of battery-operated, micro-moving, eyelash-batting freakiness who, in some unfortunate cases, are also blessed with the power of song? If you have an aversion to clowns, you will loathe animatronic elves.
What had caused such a cataclysmic change in our nation’s retail landscape? Was there a West Side Story style rumble? Did Christmas invade Halloween’s turf?
(My money, if anybody cares, was definitely on those animatronic elves.)
Yes, Christmas consumerism has been getting more and more out of hand with each passing year—and the season is getting longer.
In other breaking news, the sky is blue. Winter is cold. Water is wet.
Black Friday is like a contact sport. Bargain-hunters, fueled by a heady blend of both tryptophan and adrenaline, queue up in shopping mall parking lots across our great nation. A spirit of bonhomie reigns supreme. Then the doors open. And it is war.
Retailers and advertisers have long been trying to convince us of our penultimate purpose during the holiday season: to be a superb gift-giver, a Michelin-starred chef and a meticulous holiday party planner. The subtext is tricky: Only then will one truly be loved enough to bask in the warm and glowing light of friends and family. Everybody’s holiday get-togethers are like Norman Rockwell paintings, right?
Is keeping up with the Joneses gets you down—financially, emotionally and let’s face it, physically? What if you want to tell the Joneses to take a long walk off a short pier in the most respectful, non-grinchlike way possible)?
This is going to be my mantra for the next four weeks: I am enough. You are enough. We are enough. I will find time for introspection.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus came into the world as a means of salvation (and nobody even announced on Facebook, gee whiz!). That is enough.
How can we reclaim the holiday season as a time for joy, thankfulness, charity and introspection, rather than the consumer-induced crazy-making? Will my friends and family love me for getting the right gifts? Will I be invited to any holiday soirees, and what will I possibly wear? Will my boyfriend propose, like that guy in the Hallmark movie?
The recent picture, featuring one man’s reaction to a season of overindulgence, struck a chord with many readers:
We live in an increasingly globalized world yet, as individuals, we have become increasingly atomized. Consumer society urges us to define ourselves by the goods we consume and the social networks we create. Holiday advertising thrives on this version of reality. He with the most toys wins. Our economic system promotes economic inequality and oppression in other parts of the world. Many of our consumer goods are produced in factories where working conditions are appalling. Corporations relentlessly exploit retail employees during the holiday season.
This isn’t sexy stuff to talk about.
It makes us grinchy, dammit—and during the holidays, nonetheless! And wouldn’t we rather watch the Victoria’s Secret holiday commercials or behold all those muscled dudes yachting on those cologne commercials while eating mint-covered bonbons?
I am trying to be more mindful this Christmas.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He doesn’t have to keep up with the neighbors, but he makes an effort to help out friends and family in need whenever he can, with those little, everyday things.
He is thankful for the food on his plate and for friends and family. He understands that sometimes he will be alone for the holidays. During such times, he will avail himself of the greatness of humanity. He is thankful to live in a country where he can buy a really ugly silken fish tie as a gift for his friend who has everything. He says a prayer, nightly, for those whose who endure war, famine and persecution.
He understands that holidays are neither about ‘busy-ness’ nor about perfection. Sometimes the most beautiful things are born of brokenness: a broken heart, a broken dream, a moment when you don’t think you can go on any further, but do.
So, yes, the turkey will get burned.
Yes, Great Uncle Ed will get cantankerous after four martinis.
Yes, somebody will end up crying.
Yes, the cat will topple the tree.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise