“Look mama, it’s Santa Claus!” shouted my little boy out of the blue during a shopping trip to local grocery store. The irony in his voice made me, and everyone around us look up as we smiled uncomfortably. It was middle of October and considering that there was a large pumpkin in our shopping basket that we were about to carve out and decorate for Halloween, I imagined all the people around me were as shocked as I was to see such decoration in the store, appropriately enough above the alcoholic beverage aisle.
It seems that every year, Christmas comes earlier. Few years back, I remember scoffing at the sight of Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but these days, the reminder to save for the holiday gifts pops up even before Halloween and the madness of Black Friday is advertised as early as September. We are bombarded with not so subtle reminders from the retailers that this monstrosity of a holiday is coming, and we better be prepared, all the while hiding the fact that this is the most profitable time of the year for them, and that they are banking on that profit earlier each year.
However, the commercialism of Christmas is no longer hidden. It has become prevalent in American culture as fireworks on 4th of July or turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and I’d venture to say, most children would know more about Santa and his reindeers than the true origin of the holiday. Of course, it doesn’t help that even Christmas’ true origin has always been questionable, as Jesus being born on December 25 is about as likely as it being my birthday, which by the way is in mid-July.
The celebration of Christmas has become less about it being a spiritual holiday that brings joy to the world but more about stimulating the economy, evoking the consumers to spend money on so-called gifts that most people end up recycling or returning. The advertisements that tug at our heartstrings, we all know which one I’m talking about, and all the sparking decorations put up by retailers, Christmas trees, the twinkling lights, the glittering colors, all provide a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us.
Then, there’s the dogma of Santa Claus, a story that is about as logical as some of the folklores that my grandmother used to tell me when I was a child, like whistle blowing at night will cause snakes to come out, or swallowing watermelon seeds will cause watermelons to grow in my stomach. Nevertheless, year after year, parents propagate this myth, and they tell and retell the story of an old fella who lives in North Pole who knows all about their children and what they do. They spend their hard-earned money and spend hours searching for perfect gifts just to give all the credit to a stranger who hangs out with elves and flies around on reindeers.
We, Americans embrace this myth as a tradition and even propagated further by taking our young children have their pictures taken with supposed Santa who just happens to be touring all the malls during the month of December, and have our children tell the old fella all about themselves while sitting on his knees. Then, we pay for these photos, which by the cost as much as dinner for two at a five-star restaurant, and give them out to friends and family so that they too can have photos of a stranger on their mantle.
In all the years of my travel to over 25 countries, I have never experienced such preposterous myth being propagated anywhere else in the world.
Nevertheless, these are the so-called traditions that we have created for ourselves in the US, or more accurately, have been created by Hollywood. With kitschy Christmas music, cinematic nostalgia, plastic trees and fake Santas on grocery aisles, we have become enamored with with fallacious traditions that are so far removed from the best aspects of the holiday.
Whether it’s celebrating birth of a man (or a son of god as he is known), regaining of a homeland, or winter solstice and the return of light and life after long month darkness and cold, the holidays should be about spending time with the ones you love rather than buying things for the ones you love. Although I believe we should respect everyone’s religious or non-religious beliefs and their interpretation of what this holiday season is for them, there is no religion or spiritual belief in the world that would preach, “Thou shall buy a present for everyone you know.”
It is insane to believe that love can be shown and happiness of our loved ones, especially our children can be embellished by gifts, and I certainly don’t feel jollier when someone I haven’t seen or heard from all year sends me a Christmas card with a picture of their kids sitting on a stranger’s lap.
If we continue to follow these insane traditions, perhaps we should change the name of the holiday to Santa Clausmas.