Good afternoon, readers. I’ve been thinking about what to write lately, as the political season is a bit slow this time of year. Of course, in Virginia there is no off year as we have state elections on odd years and national elections on even years. Nevertheless, other than the recent auto bailout and the possible corruption of the Illinois governor, there is not too much to discuss. Therefore, I have decided to provide my commentary on this current holiday season in a multi-part series. Lucky you.
Yes, it is true that I have developed quite a dislike for the Christmas season. Now I didn’t always feel this way for when I was growing up I eagerly looked forward to Christmas Day as well as everything it embodied. But as the years progress and I take time to consider truly the full meaning and ramifications of the holiday, I have come up with a multitude of reasons why I have an aversion to the season. Some people call me a Grinch out of sheer instinct, after all, who else could be against Christmas, but before you rush to such conclusions, I encourage you to consider my arguments. Well, enough with the introduction, I present to you the first reason.
Part 1: Materialism and Compulsory Gift Giving
Unfortunately our culture seems to be dominated with the desire for material accumulation fueled by rampant commercialism. The Christmas season serves as the focal point of this rabid obsession. I’m sure you’ve witnessed in Walmarts and Targets children screaming to their parents for the latest toys. Don’t get me wrong, I love capitalism as much or more than the average person, but I fervently believe that materialism for its own sake is destructive. What did you get me? What are you going give me? Do these questions sound familiar? I want to know, how much stuff is enough? Isn’t the spirit of Christmas supposed to be something other than the accumulation of more and more goods? (More on this topic on a later section.)
Tied into materialism is the concept of compulsory gift giving. For some reason, we measure feelings of love, affection, and personal worth based upon the quantity and quality of gifts that we give. After all, as the logic goes, if you really love me, wouldn’t you spend as much as you could afford, or worst, far too often, even more than you can afford, going into debt? I can personally recall the Christmas sibling rivalry growing up. If my sister got either more gifts or a higher value of gifts does that mean that I should use the packages under the Christmas tree to base my merit? Here is where I would ask if we are really that shallow, but…unfortunately we are. Now if someone gives you a gift, what is the socially acceptable response? Why, you give them a gift too. I have found that when one gives a gift, at least a part of you expects some sort of reciprocation. Remember, you held that person in high enough regard to expend some of your time and wealth selecting a gift and therefore feel owed. On the other side, should someone surprise you with an unexpected gift, what is the first or second thought going through your mind? Isn’t it feelings of guilt or frustration? After all, you didn’t get that person a gift and now aren’t you socially obligated to do so?
What about merit? In an ideal world, shouldn’t gift giving, like so much else, be tied to merit? At Christmastime we are urged to give regardless of merit and therefore we give to spoiled and disobedient children or to acquaintances or family members we don’t really know or like. Don’t misunderstand my thinking here. I do enjoy giving gifts, but I don’t think we should be compelled to give gifts just because of a certain date. If I give you a gift it should be because I think you deserve it, not because it is expected or demanded or it is “that time of year”? Although it may sound counterintuitive, Christmas cheapens gift giving because it splits the correlation between merit and reward.
We must break this spinning cycle of materialism and compulsory gift giving tied to Christmas. Will this post be overwhelmed with comments of vitriolic disgust? I know it sounds cruel, but I honestly believe that this holiday only serves to encourage over-spending, guilt, and bad behavior. I say, lets forget shopping and give Christmas a better and nobler purpose.