Monday, December 24, 2007

A Rant on the Commercialism of the Holidays

Each year I find myself becoming more and more partial to the older tradition of Christmas - the gathering of the family and celebrating the end of another year with the people you love. Each year I find myself more and more disgusted with what America, Hallmark and toy companies have done with the holiday.

Such emphasis on things - meaningless objects usually, meant only to entertain and which will soon be forgotten at the bottom of a drawer - forces the meaning out of the day. The hype produced by companies turns even the most well-behaved child into a raging terror - a plague on the rest of his or her family.

Shrieks of "Presents! Presents!" are soon followed by "It doesn't work! You aren't helping me! I hate you!" The family, usually in relative peace, becomes a screaming horde - toys are thrown, dinner rights are revoked, and tears abound.

Surely, something is wrong with this picture. The birth of one man seems to be haunting us now, and we have entirely forgotten what He taught and why He died. I'm not even Christian, and I know that of all of scripture, 'Jesus wept' is the most applicable to what we have made of Christmas.

I write this now locked in my room, avoiding flying objects from my brother and happily planning my trip away from home. Maybe when I come back, everyone will be sane again.

Happy Holidays :)


  1. I agree. My brothers & mom are leaving in two hours to go to Buffalo for a week and I'm relieved. We did the Christmas shit today and as usual it was complete drama and un-fun. At least I get to spend actual Christmas in peace.

  2. Ah Christmas, the magical time of year when the ads that have been up since November first finally come down. Isn't it awesome knowing that you must spend money on someone rather then doing it out of love? Kinda like being told you need to spend a predetermined amount of money on only one out of the 6 people in your family. This year makes me wish I was a kid again. It isn't because Christmas was better then. It's because I was to naive to realize I cared more about what toy I would get then being able to spend time with my family. Thank you Allison for reminding me that there is still a small amount of hope for humanity.

  3. Big Business does not approve of this message.

    America is American, and Business is Business, and the Big Business Dream is Big Business in America.

  4. Ah but it is YOU, Allison, who has forgotten the true reason for celebration! December 25 is simply the first day, at least perceivably to the ancients, after the winter solstice at which the sun's greatest distance from the other side of the equatorial plane to the observer begins to decrease. In other words, the sun observably makes its lowest point in the sky at the winter solstice and after that, on the 25th, the sun's lowest point is 1 degree higher, foreshadowing the warmth, life, and longer days that represent spring.

    Anyway, just like Horus of Egypt, Attis if Greece, Krishna of India, Dionysus of Greece, and Mithra (my favorite) of Persia, Jesus was also said to be born on December 25. The date simply has astrotheological significance for the aforementioned reasons (it is a day that represented salvation for the people, and as we can observe from how societies play with astronomy and constellations, we like to anthropomorphize astronomical facets (hence astrology)).

    So naturally, December 25 was a pagan holiday for quite a long time. But then Roman Emperor Constatine I, the first Christian emperor of Rome, convened the Council of Nicaea which issued the Nicene Creed in 325AD. The Nicene Creed was a precursor to making Christianity the official state religion (Theodosius I made it official in 391). The council condemned other pagan religions (i.e. mithraism), but the populace wasn't easily bought. The people didn't want their pagan December 25th festivities to be taken away (including eating, drinking, and present giving), so Constatine chose that date to be the birth of jesus to more easily bring the pagans under the control of the church.

    Many theologians even agree that Jesus, if he even existed, couldn't have been born in December but more likely in the spring, although I guess there's some debate about that in the church (doesn't matter to me). In any case, this episode in Roman history is well documented.
    Christmas is just a spin-off from older winter solstice holidays to get people to turn away from the Almightly Light of Mithra.

    There's an English historian, Edward Gibbon, who wrote about the fall of the Roman Empire, who I think wrote something quite relevant to the situation: "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

  5. Yeah, my family isn't even big into the gift-giving thing (I seriously don't think my parents got me anything but I don't care cause they probably couldn't afford anything cool), but we're not big into the family time thing or traditions other than my mom's cookies either. Seriously, today and yesterday consisted of my siblings playing video games and my parents doing things on their computers, me dragging them off to open our Christmas eve present (a subscription to xbox live ironically) my sister dragging me out of bed to open a few gift cards, and then me going back to bed and them going back to their video games.

  6. Actually I misread, Gibbon used that quote in his book, but the credit goes to Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger.

  7. ... Thank you Brad, for that enlightening lecture. I think you only helped prove my point however, rather than refuting it. You know me - I am not promoting Mass or anything, I'm just saying that maybe the emphasis should not be on presents but on being with those you love.