A Different Perspective on The Commercialism of Christmas
I have heard all the complaints and pessimism surrounding the gross commercialism of Christmas. The mad rush to spend money on gifts we don’t need and/or may not want. I admit that I have fallen for it. I spent a morning 2 years ago standing outside of a Toys R’ Us at 4am. I stood in a line wrapping around the store, full of hundreds of parents and grandparents chomping at the bit to bum rush the aisles of deals on potential gifts. I complained to my wife about the cold. I complained about the commercialism of Christmas. I complained about being awake at 4am. I complained about running out of coffee and not being able to leave to get more or I would lose my place in line, and run the risk of being pepper sprayed or worse, trying to cut back in. It was 4am on a Friday morning. I was only seeing what I wanted to, based on how I felt at the moment.
I had never seen anything like the Black Friday I was a part of. As a male, I had always shunned the offer of going with my wife and sister to enter the madness accompanying such an event. As with most of my experiences, it was something I will never forget, and will draw upon from time to time to seek a better understanding of the world around me: its participants, its ideology, and its rationale.
As I warmed up to the friendly and anticipative conversation with those waiting around us, my perspectives changed. It evolved into an understanding that went beyond the time, the place, and even the lack of coffee. Naysayers Beware. What I am about to say may alter your perceptions of the commercialism of Christmas. If its commercialism you choose to believe Christmas has turned into, you may choose to read no further.
The long lines after Thanksgiving standing in the cold waiting for the doors to open on Black Friday, rushing from store to store to find the best deals on the things that we want to purchase, sleeplessness due to the early morning door buster sales, and the spending of hoards of cash. It does sound like commercialism gone rampant. I ask you to flip it around and look at it from a different perspective. Christmas is a season of giving. ‘Tis better to give than to receive. In order to give, you must first acquire.
Culturally, we spend a ton of money during the Christmas season. I won’t boggle you with semantics here, it is a lot. Why? We do it because giving is so important to us. If you are anything like me, giving a gift and watching them unwrap it is priceless. I looked across that parking lot that night and saw eagerness and hope in many faces. Eager to buy the thing their child, niece or nephew, or a friend really wanted; the hope that their loved one could un-wrap it on Christmas morning. That eagerness and hope rises from the inherent desire to please those we love. And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about. Pleasing the ones we cherish all year round. It seems so simple, but there are layers one must get past in order to see its enchanted center. All that hustle, all that bustle, all that crazed spending: No one would go through it all if those gifts didn't mean so much to both the buyers and the recipients.
Purity of Magic
I constantly remind myself of a story I read years ago when I was younger. It was the story of a young boy accompanying his father to acquire a gift for an elder of their village. He wished to bring back the sand of a shore the elder had visited as a young boy and spoke of often. They set out on the day’s long journey to the shore, bagged the sand and headed back. Upon returning to the village, the young boy was visibly upset because most of the sand had fallen out during the long return trip. Calming his son, the father explained to the boy: it is the journey, not the sand that is your gift. As we trek to the mall, or the many stores, we contemplate the loved ones we are buying for. As we delve into what they may like, who they may be, and how we may please them.
Christmas is my favorite season of the year. I am, and shall always be, a child at heart. The roles have assuredly changed over the years. I have gone from blindly tearing into ornately wrapped gifts with unblinking excitement, to staying awake long into Christmas Eve, assembling and presenting the scene I wish my children to experience on the magical morning of Christmas. I want it to be everything to them that it has always been to me. It is Magic. Everything more, and nothing less than that: Magic.