Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The inevitable post about Christmas

This blog is a really fantastic place to try to untangle and organize the jumble of thoughts that I am working on. One problem, however, is that I often try to approach an issue that is far too big for a single post, or even a series of posts. I hate capitalism. I've tried to write about this on a number of occasions, leaving behind large tracts of text that will never be read. It's a really difficult idea to put into words, especially when I'm not particularly educated on economic and political theory.

Consider this a small element of that conversation.

The latest Black Friday insanity was shocking; shootings, pepper spray and general insanity lead me to rethink the whole Meaning of Christmas. Obviously Christmas has no spiritual significance to me. But there is plenty still to love. The wealth of classic Christmas memoirs and stories simply proves that there is deep cultural relevance to the entire season, and one that I fully embrace.

But now Black Friday is as much of a holiday as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I draw on a wealth of Christmas movies when I laugh at the cinematic trope of shopping on Christmas Eve. It just seems to be a lazy storytelling device to establish time and infuse it with sentimentality. This year, for the first time ever, I saw this as a historical holdover. Years ago, decades even, perhaps Christmas shopping truly did occur largely on Christmas Eve. And suddenly this makes a whole lot of sense. It makes shopping for gifts more immediate if not more heartfelt. And it dramatically reduces the time that consumers spend thinking about gifts and shopping.

I like that. I like that Christmas is a week-long event (or a 12 day one) rather than a 45 day shopping extravaganza (If I were insane, I might compare this to our similarly commercialized election cycle). And yet, like so many of my fantastic ideas, I fail to take my own advice. We still get a tree at the top of December. I'm already halfway done with my shopping. All of this brings me to the quintessential Christmas film: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I have a complicated relationship with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Obviously I dislike the overtly religious element to the story, but even when I was still a Christian, that part was foreign and unwelcome. It felt like the bitter pill that the rest of the charming story was made to mask. As a child, Charlie Brown's lamenting over the commercialization of Christmas really resonated with me. I understood what he was saying; garish decorations and greed are just distractions from the real joys of the season: traditions and generosity - ideas which have been handily perverted.

So A Charlie Brown Christmas is a valid and vital holiday movie after all. It might even be the perfect holiday movie. You just have to edit Linus' monologue down to one phrase: "Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men."

You see? I don't hate everything! This is as much a surprise to me as anyone else. Although if I were king of the world, holidays would be among the first items on the chopping block.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

I read an article not too long ago that was saying that stop signs inhibited safe driving since they removed the responsibility for conscious care from the drivers. In the same way, these holidays that obligate giving, takes away the initiative for conscious generosity.