The moment you heard your first Christmas song this year while in a store, you probably gritted your teeth and thought, “Oh, no! Not already!” or even, “Not again!” Is it because you dislike being reminded that your Christmas shopping time is running out before it began? That you face two months of heavy traffic, crowded stores, family anxieties and squabbling, irritable tempers, the dredging of awful childhood memories, and/or soaring credit card debt? Or is it simply that you can listen to Feliz Navidad only so many times before screaming, “Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!” Perhaps it’s a little of all these.
“Christmas is too commercial!” someone said to me many years ago. “What I want is a traditional Christmas.” I told her that it’s easy enough to forego the commercialism of Christmas and to pioneer one’s own traditions that have nothing to do with what others do and that have personal meaning. For example, if putting up a tree, real or artificial, is too much work or too stressful, why not fill the house with colourful or fragrant plants instead? If it isn’t Christmas to you without a tree, then instead of buying manufactured ornaments that have no significance at a faceless chain store, make your own (with your children if you have any). Not only will you have the satisfaction of having a unique collection of decorations, but you’ll be able to explore your creative side while engaging your kids in a family activity.
If the usual Christmas tunes you’ve heard performed by the same people over and over again have become associated with stress and anxiety or seared your nerves through decades of repetition, perhaps it’s time to expand your musical tastes at home (since you can’t avoid what the stores broadcast). For example, I have Anonymous 4’s On Yoolis Night, the Baltimore Consort’s Bright Day Star, Robin Petrie’s Victorian Christmas and Victorian Noël, Renaissance Holiday, and other assorted and uncommon collections of Christmas music you won’t hear at Target. There’s also The Soul of Christmas, with author Thomas Moore, the late Johnny Cunningham, and a group of talented Celtic performers telling stories, sharing thoughts, and singing and playing spiritual songs in a spiritual way.
I pointed this type of idea out to the “Christmas is too commercial!” individual, but by then she was focused on trying to find a relative a gift that would cost at least $80. “Maybe a designer cologne?” she suggested hopefully.
Whether you’re a devout Christian, a follower of another faith, or a committed atheist, you can appreciate that Christ (prophet, messiah, or myth) never endorsed the idea of commemorating his birth date (unknown) with spending competitions and oneupmanship or through bestowing such gifts as violent video games on 12-year-olds. A history textbook I’m reading notes that, economically and socially, shepherds were the lowest of the low, spending much of their time outside the protection of civilization. To whom were tidings of great joy brought? To whom does Jesus repeatedly compare himself? To shepherds. To the humblest members of society — to people who can’t spend $80 on a gift to impress someone. To people for whom any comfort or small luxury is a simple pleasure.
If so many of us hate the madness of the bustle, the crass commercialism, and the oneupmanship game that gift giving can become, why don’t we stop? Why don’t we listen to one of the most popular, enduring television specials — A Charlie Brown Christmas? Or the words of Jesus himself? Don’t wait for the world to stop. Be brave. Be the first. Set a new standard. Celebrate simply. And rediscover what Christmas means to you.