Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I am already tired of Christmas. The commercialization of it has always offended me and it gets worse every year. This year, store decorations were up before Halloween, totally skipping Thanksgiving while going straight for the jugular, our wallets.
When I was young there was a rhythm to the year, bounded by holidays. Each one was given its due, and it was reliable. Even if one didn't especially enjoy a holiday itself, there was comfort in the orderliness of it.
Mercantile greed has done away with all special occasions that do not bear fruit which means that Christmas has taken on the enormous task of keeping the economy afloat while assuaging all the guilt we have accumulated during the year. Treat someone badly? No problem. Give a nice present and all will be forgiven.
Lest I be confused with Scrooge, let me say that I love giving presents to my near and dear. Where they are concerned, it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, although the receiving ain't half bad either.
But I prefer to give presents when the urge hits me, when I see something that screams the name of one of my loved ones. This joyful experience doesn't necessarily occur in the weeks immediately preceding December 25th, however. And watching people shop aggressively with grim determination is not conducive to spreading holiday cheer in my heart.
The custom of gift-giving originated with the Pagans thousands of years before Jesus was born. In fact, his inclusion in celebrations of the winter solstice, when the sun is farthest from the equator, did not occur until long after his death. Even his "birth date" was arbitrarily assigned by the pope in AD 320 because Mithraism, an early folk religion, marked the birth of Mithras, the Persian sun god, on December 25th. It was easier to convert people by keeping things as familiar as possible.
I am not a Christian, but I endorse the Christian plea to "Keep Christ in Christmas" because it is an anti-commerce sentiment. In this context, "Christ" should be loosely interpreted as giving meaningfully of ourselves to others, no matter what our religious beliefs or lack of them, because in caring service lies our true freedom. Helping or forgiving someone is a gift which costs nothing and which also brings the greatest return.
And then there is mistletoe, which the ancient Druids considered a divine plant, symbolizing love and peace. Kissing is pretty divine, too, so let's Keep the Kiss in Christmas.