Has this Holiday season got you down? Do you feel that everyone around you has lost the true Christmas spirit? You’re not alone.
The Christmas Spirit. Can’t you just feel it? O Come all ye faithful and all that jazz? Tis the season of giving! BLACK FRIDAY SALE! Now open THANKSGIVING DAY!! HOLY CRAP!! I still haven’t sent Christmas Cards out! IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Stop the War on Christmas! I don’t get it, and I’m not sure I ever have. Not since I was a child have I looked forward to the holidays for anything other than some time off school. Frankly, I just don’t understand why Christmas gets so much press and excitement. We have taken a holiday that has its most ancient roots in celebration and turned it into a stressful, competitive and often malicious nightmare from which we do not awaken until the New Year.
Perhaps my view has been jaded by life experience, but I watch year after year as consumerism usurps glad tidings and good cheer. I’ve worked in some form of retail since I was 16 years old, and have witnessed the absolute worst in people when we are collectively supposed to be at our best. I can remember growing up, my parents teaching me that Christmas was about the spirit of giving, and the thought behind the gift was more important than the gift itself.
Hogwash. Christmas has evolved, or devolved if you will, into an extravaganza of buying and selling, where the almighty dollar reigns supreme and he or she who spends the most wins the day. Advertisers tell us we’re horrible parents if we don’t purchase the newest Ipod, Droid, Xbox or Playstation. How dare we send our preteen child out without Hollister jeans or Beats by Dre headphones! No matter that wages are stagnant or in decline. The happiness of our friends and family is directly proportionate to the amount we spend on them! Credit cards enable us to borrow for gifts now and pay it off later…maybe. There are adults, so accustomed to receiving, who are visibly ungrateful when a giver is unable to live up to the lofty expectations they’ve set for themselves.
I have watched as women fight over toys, customers scream and berate sales clerks who are just trying to do their jobs, and seen employees with severe anxiety because they have spent a shift dealing with cranky, self-absorbed people who can’t be bothered to see beyond their own need to buy. I have fired a single mother on Christmas Eve, who finally snapped at a customer, uttering words I wish I could have defended her for. I have had people scream at me for closing the front doors Christmas Eve, attempting to get my employees home on time to their families, and seen people trampled as we opened the doors the morning after Thanksgiving.
Now, instead of the joy of giving, we have the stress of spending and finding. We battle crowds and lines like warriors of the queue, arming ourselves with grimaces and attitudes. We buy online, purchasing from the kingdom of Amazon, sending our electronic dollars to businesses we’ve never seen. Small business owners, who understand the struggle, sit in their shops, hoping the customers come, but knowing the hassle of traffic and parking will keep many away. They stress too, about paying the bills and buying gifts of their own.
The fact of the matter is that too many have lost sight of the simple joy of giving from the heart. A simply hand written note can mean more than the most expensive diamond, and the most luxurious fur can be a cold reminder of a gift given without warmth. We’ve lost the right to argue over the name of a holiday when we can no longer remember what it was about in the first place. Christmas was never the birth of Christ, or the filling of stockings. Christmas is more about the Grinch, who finds his way despite malice in his heart. No, I don’t have the Christmas spirit. I don’t look forward to this time of year, and perhaps never will. Instead, I look forward to random acts of kindness, both given and received, and the small joy of giving a gift that required thought, that will evoke a memory or an emotion. That, to me, is the reason for the season, no more and no less.
Photo: Steven Depolo