Go Ahead and Shop
One of the most maligned social institutions these days is a commercialized Christmas, and I believe, unfairly so. For me, Christmas, even as it is commercialized, is the highlight of the year. People are speaking out a lot lately about the evils of a commercialized Christmas. I want to defend it.Now, I don’t think that everything about the commercialization of Christmas is wonderful, but I do think that there is nothing wrong with the hurried bustle of decorating, sending cards, and buying gifts. My wife will probably read this and think, “Easy for you to say. You leave all of that to me to do.”
I will confess right now that she is right. Hey, her talent is doing it. Mine is enjoying it.
I will readily admit that it is very easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. I still hate, hate, hate to see it referred to as Xmas. I equally hate having someone wish me to have Happy Holidays or refer to “this festive season.” If you want to make me happy, wish me a Merry Christmas. As they say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
In fact, I see the commercialized Christmas craze as a true tribute to him, even from people who may not give him much of a thought. My belief is that anything that is good comes from God. No other being than Jesus Christ, in my way of thinking, could inspire such generosity in people and is powerful enough to inspire it regardless of whether they believe him to be the Son of God, as I do.
It goes back to my childhood, of course. I didn’t grow up in the happiest of families. In fact, much of it was a living hell for me. I was a victim of child abuse. I think it happened 11 months out of the year, but December was always different. My memories of Christmas don’t include any of the abuse. There was nothing but happy feelings in the family.
The very presence of a Christmas tree transformed the entire dynamic in our home. We got along. My stepfather seemed to be in a good mood, which from my recollection was not his usual state. Our home was filled with Christmas music. When Dad was home, it was one mainly Hank Snow’s Christmas album. To my stepfather, there was only one singer in the world worth listening to—Hank Snow.
I tolerated him. I never really cared for country music and living in a home where only one kind of music could be heard made me like it even less. Dad did branch out at one point and bought a Gene Autry Christmas Album. It was a nice change.
Fortunately, he did allow singing of Christmas songs in the car. I remember riding in the back seat during Christmas time singing all of the old children’s Christmas songs that are still popular today: Up on the House Top, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful. Hymns at church were all about Christmas too.
The elementary I attended had an annual Christmas program that included all of those songs. In the picture above, I’m in the second row, sixth from the left. Good ol’ Lakeland Elementary! Good ol’ Mrs. Keplinger!
For a large part of my childhood, we lived in Norwalk, California. That’s in the Los Angeles area. It doesn’t snow there as a rule, but somehow I remember it all wintry and snowy. I had a great imagination.
When I was 11, we moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. Now there was a snowy Christmas wonderland. I remember going downtown to Newberry’s. At least I think it was Newberry’s. It could have been Woolworth’s or Sprouse-Reitz. Whichever it was, it was electrified with Christmassyness. Whenever I hear the song, “Silver Bells,” I think of the corner of that street. All of the street lights had these big gaudy lighted candy canes.
Our family traditions around Santa Claus were wonderful. My stepbrother always woke up my stepsister to get her to ask Dad if we could get up yet. He wouldn’t say “no” to her like he would to the boys. I remember how hard it was to go to sleep the night before. I laid awake for what seemed like hours.
I so believed in Santa Claus. Now, someone reading this is going to think I’m being silly, but I still do believe in Santa Claus. Really! I’m not kidding! Of course, I don’t think all of the television specials every year are accurate, but I think there is a being out there who gives gifts at Christmas time. How he operates is a mystery to me, but I believe he exists. In the words of Shakespeare, as spoken by Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
I remember Christmastime for the food too. Mom spent lots of time in the kitchen, baking stuff that I still dream of today. Oh the cookies, fudge, candy, pies, and above all, the divinity!
Television was a delight during December. I still don’t feel it has been Christmas without some version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Some of them I don’t like. My favorite is the one with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, although the Alistair Sim version is delightful too. In later years, I came to love the musical version, Scrooge, starring Albert Finney. Watch for the shot in the “Father Christmas” production number where the street urchin declares, regarding Scrooge, “E’s a bandit!” Cracks my kids up every time.
So, maybe my idea of what is meant by “commercialism” is different than yours. There are a lot of things about commercial Christmas that I don’t like at all. I don’t like people going into debt. I don’t like leaving Christ totally out of it. I don’t like rude shoppers and cranky salespeople. I don’t like people celebrating it by getting drunk. I hate malls so busy that you can’t park or leave when you can’t find a parking spot.
So, to everyone, have a very Merry Christmas. Go out and buy some presents. It’s good for the economy. Stay out of debt. It’s bad for the economy and for you.