Christmas: What's the Big Deal?
What Makes the Holiday Spirit?
The Holidays are typically a time of cheer, solidarity, and goodwill. For me personally the time between Halloween and New Years is my most favorite time of year. It all just seems magical, people give to others, beauty seems to be in the air, and even the most stalwart grumps may crack a smile. Though the atmosphere may be magical, surely "magic" is not the cause of the Spirit of the Holidays. I'm writing this Hub to posit four ideas that I believe to be the primary contributing factors to this so called Spirit.
Collective Unconscious can be defined as "a part of the unconscious mind, shared by a society, humanity and all life forms, that is the product of ancestral experience and contains such concepts as science, religion, and morality". In other words, as a species that has lived thousands of years, we have acquired sets of experiences and interpretations that have formed in the unconscious mind of the entire species. This is also true in a more narrow sense for individual societies, and in a broader sense by all life forms. Archetypes are a perfect example of this theory. The ancient flood, light vs. dark, the superhero, and the afterlife are all archetypes (symbols of a human experience or truth) that are housed in the human collective unconscious.
The idea here is that the idea of "Holiday Spirit" is housed in society's unconscious mind in a way that it has conditioned us to act in accord with such an idea. Festivities have been part of the human experience since ancient times, and with each festival or holiday rituals and practices are instituted. Often during such celebrations a "mob mentality" takes over and the practice of the festival permeates the whole society. Hence in celebratory holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Thanksgiving the society as a collective becomes overall happy, and in seasons of remembrance such as Lent, Passover, or Veterans Day, the society as a collective becomes penitent or contemplative.
Religion is arguably the most powerful and influential force in the world, and is as old as humans themselves. Many of the Holidays celebrated world-wide have religious background--Christmas, Easter both have elements of Christian, Jewish, and Pagan rituals. Some reasons which people adhere to religion are because it's transcendental, communal, creates purpose, and promotes self-actualization. People, by their very finite nature, long to be a part of something greater, especially the infinite. Partaking in religious celebrations and leading religious lives provides this transcendental need in both individuals and society. Humans also have an innate need to be in community which religion by its very nature provides. Carrying out religious practices and striving for religious goals (Afterlife, Justice, etc.) provides people with a sense of purpose in life, and the ability to carry out and achieve these goals aids people in their human need to be self-actualized.
Despite the inherent religiosity of the Holidays, no one will argue that commercialism has overrun the season. For many, the commodification of the Holidays has resulted in a focus of getting and receiving gifts and other items, that the religious context of the season has fallen by the wayside. Because of this, it has become in the best interest of commerce to instill in their patrons a sense of holiday spirit. This theory states that businesses decorate, play Christmas music, slash prices, and contribute to a feeling a beauty and goodwill during the Holidays to sell stuff.
It is impossible to find a sad Christmas song, they just don't exist. Whether or not this is an effect from one of the other causes, it is nonetheless a definite cause to the Holiday cheer. For an entire month Holiday music is blasted in departments stores and radio stations. Its hard to hear one of these songs and not get into the Spirit of the Holidays. They talk about being together during cold winter nights, jolly St. Nick, and purchasing Christmas shoes for a child's mother. With all this lovey-dovey music pervading the season, it is hard not feeling the same way ourselves.
What is it?
So what is it exactly that gives us the Holiday Spirit? It is likely it is all of these reasons combined, but perhaps there is a primary cause. Obviously the Holiday season is not happy for everyone--people still die, young children go without food and homes, and there is still crime. But even though suffering still abounds, grace abounds all the more during this season. It is a wonderful feeling, and my favorite time of year. My challenge to you reader, is to get into the Holiday Spirit for the right reasons, and bring those you love along for the ride.
Can you feel it?
Are you in the Holiday Spirit?
Which do you think contributes the most to the Holiday Spirit?
© 2009 rdlang05