According to Biblical scholars, and if you believe the mythology, the birth of Jesus Christ likely took place sometime in March, rather than late December as it’s come to be celebrated. The first recorded Christmas celebration happened on December 25th in the year 336 A.D. and, not long after, Pope Julius I officially declared that the observed date of Christ’s birth.
So, the date is somewhat arbitrary. Though, like so many other Christian traditions, the December timeframe was most likely lifted from pagan celebrations, in this case, the Winter Solstice. Since pagan traditions had been around for centuries, it was probably far easier to simply re-brand an existing holiday than create a new one.
Regardless of how the date was chosen, it seems most Americans have lost sight of the point. Whatever your religion, or lack thereof, Christmas should be a celebration of kindness, the spirit of giving, and goodwill toward all people (not just men or Christians). Instead, just as Charlie Brown once lamented, people have turned Christmas into a time of gluttony, commercialism, and one-upsmanship.
Christmas trees up at Halloween, stores restocking shelves with holiday items when back-to-school has barely been packed up, and “Jingle Bells” playing over the radio before Thanksgiving has even come and gone. It’s called Christmas Creep and it seems to be getting earlier every year.
Getting into the spirit is one thing, a sick obsession is quite another. Getting the lights up on the house in August is fine if you are just trying to stay ahead of the cold weather and don’t plan to turn them on until December. But when they’re hung and lit before school’s back in September, that’s messed up.
And “Black Friday,” don’t even get me started. As comedian-musician Tom Lehrer once said, “Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy!” The need for people to swarm a store at 4 a.m. to save five bucks on a TV is incomprehensible. “God rest ye merry merchants may ye make the Yule Tide pay!”
Moreover, a great many shoppers are buying things they don’t even need or want simply because of the discount. Most of the time people are spending money on themselves during these binge buys, it’s not even about the spirit of giving. Does anyone else think this is nuts?
Oh, the entitlement of Americans, the need for stuff of a kind that lays around the house or piles up in the garage until you die and then your family gets to figure out what to do with it all. Mostly, it ends up in a dumpster. Sounds pretty dark, doesn’t it? Maybe, but it’s the truth.
One report from 2014 estimates that household waste, unwanted gifts included, increases by as much as 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s an estimated 6 million tons of garbage over the course of a month or so, mostly dropping into the local landfill. What is wrong with us?
We’re the richest country in the world, with the most opportunity and the most bounty of just about everything. Do we, as a society, really want for so much and think we have so little that a revered time of year is reduced to the sale price of a leg-shaped lamp? Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Whether religious or not, you can make the season brighter without falling into the trappings of it all. Start by examining your own life and figure out what is missing. Giving yourself more stability and satisfaction makes you more able to help others.
Ask yourself how you might improve your own situation, and in doing so you’ll be helping those around you, even if it doesn’t seem like it happens directly. Maybe you’d like a better job, get healthier, or spend more time with your family and friends?
Try to forget about all the shopping and pressure of the season and reflect. Remember, the spirit of the Christmas holiday season should be one of rejuvenation and togetherness and will never be found at a store sale.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at www.gerydeer.com