It’s the secularism, gluttony and consumerism threatening our most glorious holiday that gives me that warm Christmas feeling.
There’s a war out there. Have you heard? I’m not talking about Syria. I’m talking about Christmas.
They’re trying to take to Christ out of it. They’re calling it “xmas.” They’re banning Christmas trees and making us only listen to holiday carols.
They’re taking the purity and joy that makes Christmas so sacred and destroying it. Christmas was once about giving to others. Now it’s all about secularism and gluttony and overindulgence, and if Charlie Brown was pissed over the consumerism and over-commercialization of Christmas 1965, imagine what’d he think today? Black Friday alone, a November event, would cause him to cancel the annual Christmas pageant.
The true meaning of Christmas is now buried deep in the attic under a half-blinking strand of icicle lights, overdrawn bank statements and drunk people bar hopping in Santa Clause costumes. You know what? I love it. The secularism, consumerism and gluttony that define this war on what’s arguably the most polarizing of holidays is, to quote a popular carol, “what Christmas means to me.”
I was born and raised Catholic. I went to church every Sunday, suffered through thirteen years of Catechism and went to a Jesuit college. I don’t practice as much as I should (understatement of the day) but I still identify as such. I’m well aware that the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. If that’s what you want to celebrate, then go for it. At the same time, I don’t think Santa, Mariah Carey or wrapped gifts were in the bible. Christmas has morphed into secular holiday a long time ago, which I’m perfectly content with. If anything, it means that more people, rather than less can celebrate the gluttony and materialism of it all.
Let’s tackle the gluttony and over-indulgence. I support this aspect of the holiday season despite gaining 15 pounds last year that I still have not lost under the rationalization that I look better with a “fuller face.” If used in moderation and with the right motivations these are not vices. You know what I over-indulge in every holiday season (besides a million party spreads, obviously)? Friends. This was officially the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written, but hear me out. You were probably expecting food and drinks, but who else do we overindulge on the food and drinks with? For much of the year, our schedules govern our lives. We take weekends to work and use budgetary restrictions to cancel that weekend roadtrip. For much of the year we don’t indulge our personal relationships enough. I’ve spent the past three weekends getting together with people I only see a couple of times a year. I might not get as much work done as I wanted and might go a little over budget but those news experiences and memories are worth it.
In the same vein, I’m pretty diligent about working out. I don’t run because I like how it makes me feel. I run because I like how it makes me look and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who puts pressure on my appearance. It’s nice to eat a few more carbs than you normally allot yourself or go to a get together and simply enjoy everything rather than thinking of the consequences. And if you gain a couple of pounds? New Years is typically not the time to be worrying about what you look like in your birthday suit, unless you happen to parlay that New Year’s eve kiss into waking up with a new special someone. Luckily I only ever wake up with a headache.
As hard as I tried to say Christmas is not about the presents, it totally is. The twist here is that I find just as much joy in giving as receiving. I know that I could simply tell the people I love how I feel about them, rather than showing them with material goods, but I actually do try and do that throughout the year. That’s just acting like a decent human. Showing them through gifts is just a nice bonus. For example, two years ago I bought my parents and siblings a family ski trip. My parents know (I hope) how much I love and appreciate them, but it felt great to show them, to give them not only something tangible, but something that maybe they wouldn’t have thought to do for themselves.
A nice side effect I found is that when I ramp up my consumerism during the holidays, I also ramp up my charity. There’s something about the holiday season, about the ludicrous amount I spend on gifts and party favors and drinks and dinners that makes me realize how lucky I am. In turn, I don’t mind dropping a few fives or tens into the Salvation Army buckets or spending some of my cash for a food drive donation. Do I wish I could stand up here on a pedestal and lambast the rest of you for only giving at Christmas? Sure, but in the meantime I don’t think charity, no matter what the catalyst, could be looked down upon.
When you combine these three things, this secularism, gluttony and materialism, they form a sick trifecta that both epitomizes what I treasure most about the holiday season and absolves these terms of some of the ill will they conjure: the traditions. Preparing the food for Thanksgiving (it’s part of the holiday season now, don’t fight it) to me is my parents and siblings working together in the same room, something that used to be a daily occurrence. I look forward to the party my friend throws every year the weekend before Christmas that serves as a mini college reunion of sorts and always leaves me with an awful hangover and empty wallet. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days. Each year, a group of friends and I plant ourselves at our favorite bar from promptly noon-4ish and enjoy each other’s company, a lot of reminiscing and a nice buzz that if timed right makes the Christmas Eve mass a little more tolerable. And really, I shouldn’t complain about the mass. It’s the one day of the year that I actively enjoy going to church, mainly because the music and the building have a familiarity that screams “home” to me.
There hasn’t been much “Christ” in Christmas for me in some time, but there is celebration of friends, family, life and being thankful for what I have, which you’d be hard-pressed to argue is really delving away from what the holiday’s initial intentions were.
photo: whale05 / flickr