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Christmas and Consumerism

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TIS THE SEASON OF GREED

Christmas has been targeted as the holiday of consumerism. Rather than it being a time of loving and giving, it has become a stressful season of greed. Many people in American society assume that the main purpose of Christmas is the supposed coming of Santa Claus. Their assumption however is far from the truth. The origins of Christmas, which literally means Christ mass, actually lie in Christianity not in the fat man with a big white beard and stomach that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly. Centuries ago, Christians developed a tradition of celebrating Jesus Christ's birthday. Although Christians were unsure of the exact date of Christ's birth, they officially declared December 25th as the day they would celebrate it. The holiday began simply as a day in which families would spend quality time together, reflecting on Jesus' s life, giving thanks to God for sending his one and only son. As the years went by the very meaning of Christmas has been lost and has been taken over by the world of marketing, materialism, and commercialization. The importance of Christmas is overlooked, and has become a holiday of consumerism, and I believe that we should focus on the importance of Christmas and the true and actual meaning. To spend more meaningful time with our loved ones, rather than buying their hearts with expensive gifts. Amidst all the hustle and bustle that this holiday brings, it is important for us to recognize the true reason of the day, and celebrate in a fashion that exemplifies that reason.

One might ask, where did the tradition of Santa Claus come from? The answer to this question unfortunately is not quite as straight forward. Somehow this tradition wove itself into the holiday season during the 4th century from Turkey, where a wealthy bishop by the name of Nicholas, habitually gave gifts to children. Following the death of Nicholas, he was honored as Saint Sinter Nikolass, and a holiday was established in honor of him on December 6th. Dutch people in the Netherlands later shortened the saint's name to Sinter Klaas, which eventually evolved into Santa Claus in the U.S. following Dutch immigration. Soon after, gift giving became a part of the Christmas tradition, as giving was seen as a sign of love for one another, which Jesus Christ had eminently encouraged.

Christmas today, however, is not just celebrated by Christians. If one were to look along their street at night during December, practically all of their neighbor's houses would be elaborately decorated with lights and Christmas decorations. Yet if one were to ask these people whether or not they believe in Jesus Christ, chances are they would be unsure of how to answer or would flat out reply that they are not religious. Even people from different religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, are often found celebrating Christmas. But is it really Christmas that they are celebrating? If their reason for celebrating the season is not the birth of Christ, then what is it?

Over the past century, the celebration of the birth of Christ has developed into an authentic American tradition. People across the country had observed the enjoyment Christians found in the celebration of Christmas, and decided to partake. However, these individuals were not interested in celebrating the birth of Christ, they were interested in the gift giving and receiving aspect, which had been woven into the Christian tradition. As this change occurred however, the holiday lost its true meaning. Evidence of Christmas becoming an American tradition rather than a Christian celebration is found in today's Christmas movies. If one were to take ten of today's most popular Christmas movies, and observe what their focus is upon, chances are the answer would be Santa, gifts, family, or something along those lines. Not that these topics are bad, but it is clear that Jesus has been eliminated from the American tradition of Christmas. Things like carols and nativity plays, which brought the message of Christ's love and sacrifice to the entire world, are becoming scarcer by the year.

Although the American tradition of Christmas eliminated the figure of Jesus Christ, Americans still had good reasoning for celebrating the holiday to begin with. Christmas meant quality time with family members, and gift giving to one another to demonstrate their love. Americans at this time were in fact celebrating Christmas for the same reasons of love and giving that were stressed in the Christian tradition. However, over the years commercialization has destroyed the fundamental aspects of Christmas. By embracing the fake figure of Santa Claus, Americans have ultimately encouraged their children to focus on greed by telling them to think of what they want for Christmas, and write a list to Santa, with the expectation of getting exactly what they ask for.

This emphasis has changed Christmas into a season in which children dream and beg for the newest, most expensive toys, turning them into greed machines. Now why is it that adults encourage their children to act in such a selfish manner? Abigail McCarthy, who received her M.A from University of Minnesota believes that, "parents often develop strong psychological compulsions-they feel guilty about neglecting their children while working to support their families" (1). This is an interesting point because woman in this century are working more and more hours trying to support their families, which causes them to be apart from their children. McCarthy brings up in an article that she wrote called "Christmas List", that parents are not spending enough quality time with their children, and therefore they feel the need to make up for that time by buying them things. This philosophy is present throughout our society all year long-not just during Christmas. Parents often bribe their children to obey by buying them gifts. The problem with this behavior is that children come to a point where they only obey when they are guaranteed to get something in return for their good behavior, thus creating a cycle of greed which they will more than likely pass on to their own children some day. Adults, however, are also guilty of falling into the pit of greed. Often they feel compelled to ask for extravagant, expensive gifts-things they would not be able to buy for themselves.

Years ago, gifts that people received for Christmas were evaluated by creativity and thought. Remember the eminent phrase, "it is the thought that counts". How I hated hearing that as a child. I remember my mother telling me that as I opened yet another pre-used gift from my Aunt. Today, however, the value of a gift is a direct relation to its price tag. Children and adults alike, desire to have the

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