Looking back at commercial Christmas

Take a walk through Walmart. Remember the Black Friday sales? Look at Santa Claus posing with little children in the mall. Everywhere, Christmas seems to be centered on buying and selling. The “Christmas spirit” is beginning to turn into the “buy buy spirit”—a money-spending and moneymaking business.

More and more Christmas is starting to mean finding the best sales on decorations, stressing over sleeping arrangements for visiting family, and (a problem every family encounters) making sure everyone has an equal amount of presents. Just thinking about Christmas in this way makes December seem like an exhausting, demanding, and stressful time. All this, just to end in cleaning up wrapping paper and taking down decorations on the 26th?

Is there something more to this “festive holiday season”? Even Dr. Seuss’ Grinch ponders the meaning of Christmas:

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

It seems that every year, Christmas becomes more secularized. Retailers, advertisements, and even the government are gradually censoring Christmas in its religious aspects.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Three years ago, atheists who felt left out of the Christmas celebrations put up a “Tree of Knowledge” to demonstrate their disapproval of Christmas trees. Schools have already changed “Christmas break” to “winter break.” Store retailers are encouraged to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Even Santa Claus has begun taking pictures with children right after Halloween. How is this “Christmas”? The very name “Christmas” points to its true meaning–Christ.

Unless certain people live Christmas according to its true meaning, the consumer agenda will take over and change Christmas to its “Christmas.” Last week, I went home to Georgia for Thanksgiving. Just before saying grace for our Thanksgiving meal, my niece held out her hands—she wanted us to hold hands while we prayed. Just to note, our family never holds hands nor has my niece been around people who hold hands while they pray. Nevertheless, despite our hesitation and awkward side looks at her, she insisted in her simple and childlike manner that we hold hands—not just then, but at every meal after that. So we did. Persistence in the face of aversion often bears much fruit. Just recently, when the governor of Rhode Island instituted his own Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, Bishop Tobin courageously held a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the same time just a few blocks from the State House ceremony. It’s difficult to swim upstream; yet, Bishop Tobin’s single act influenced many. In the end, even more people attended the Christmas Tree Ceremony.

The consumerism efforts to dilute Christmas so that all people will be included is not an act of equality, but rather one of simply taking advantage of a Christian feast for the sake of consumerism. Preserving Christ in Christmas is important because when the “Buy Buy ” Holiday spirit begins to infiltrate, it will soon be bye bye for Christmas. Maybe, by the way we prepare for and live this Christmas, we can say bye to the buy.

About Margaret Antonio

Margaret Antonio is valedictorian of the 2012 graduating class of Immaculate Conception Academy. She is a student at Boston College.
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