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Warped9 November 19 2008 01:15 PM

The meaning of Christmas...
I had an interesting conversation with a young seasonal coworker about a week or so ago, prompted by her seeing me very involved in decorating our store (Dixie-Dundas Future Shop in Mississauga, Ontario) for Christmas.

She is perhaps no older than 20 and I was bummed somewhat to hear her say how down she was on Christmas. Mind you there may have been family and/or personal issues involved that she did not wish to reveal as part of her reasoning, but she did strongly complain that Christmas was far too commercialized and that no one seemed to get into the true meaning of Christmas.

My response was that I quite understood her discouragement. Yet I also told her that there was nothing new about her grievance--people have been complaining about the over commercialization of Christmas since at least the mid 19th century if not longer.

I went on to add that in a modern society it's easy to grasp how the religious basis or what's generally accepted as the "true" meaning of Christmas could be easily overlooked by many. This isn't surprising really since much of the holiday is a collection of myths, historical inaccuracies and arbitrarily accepted rituals from around the world all rolled into one holiday.

- Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th (but for the life of me I can't recall exactly which month he was said to be born).
- Santa Claus (or whatever name you accept) has his origins connected to a real person.
- All our familiar traditions come from different cultures down through time.
- The act of giving is rooted not only in the gifts brought to Christ by the three wise men yet also by the gifts purportedly given by the original St. Nicholas for poor families and children. And the exchange of gifts is certainly nothing new in human history.

Also how Christmas is celebrated varies greatly not only down through time and around the world yet also within your own local community.

Certainly Christmas is overly commercialized, but where is it written in stone that you have to buy into that, I told her. Expectations be damned. The meaning of Christmas is what you bring to it. If it is the religious significance then there are any number of churches with like minded folks to fulfill that impulse. Beyond that is our thankfulness and celebration of the good in our lives, not only between family and friends yet also amongst your fellows in your community and around the world.

The meaning of Christmas doesn't come in a box, as famously realized by the Grinch himself. It is what you carry in your heart and how you express it.

Recently my Store Manager and some others suggested we add pictures of merchandise and perhaps signage and even open unwrapped boxes to our Christmas decorations. They asked my opinion seeing how I was in charge of the decorations.

My response was an unhesitant, "No." I explained that everything in the damned store was already merchandised and advertised and there were sales associates all around to pitch the product. Later next month I will playing Santa Claus in my own homemade suit to look more like an old-fashioned Santa as opposed to the candy cane corporate looking Santa I did the same last year for the first time). And I won't be shilling product openly for the store either. I'll carry a basket of candies, greet and welcome folks as I walk around the store, tell some jokes and listen to some kids wishes.

There's enough commercialization in the store already, I asserted. Let our decorations and whatever else remain just Christmas and festive feeling. Let's not inject business into everything.

My General Manager looked at me for a moment then shook my hand and agreed I was absolutely right. He said that in the pressure to pursue sales it was easy to overlook the genuine spirit and festivity of the season.

That was my strike for decency recently. :)

Hermiod November 19 2008 01:22 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I applaud you for taking a stand.

However, my general opinion about Christmas is the sooner we rename it Annual Non-denominational Gift Day the better.

JoeZhang November 19 2008 01:28 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I'm 33, I don't remember when Christmas wasn't a business - that's it's normal way of being to me.

Warped9 November 19 2008 01:54 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
Year round I can be alternately a wise cracking and mocking person as well as a curmudgeon of sorts. And yet with the approach of Christmas and the first chill and snow flakes in the air I begin to hum seasonal tunes and look forward to seeing the decorations. A glow does come into my heart and sentiment and emotion becomes a bit more acute.

No one asked me to take charge of the decorations. I just asserted myself and got the message across that it would be done in a certain way. Believe me working in retail it's a constant battle to keep the corporate mentality at bay.

bluedana November 19 2008 03:31 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...

Certainly Christmas is overly commercialized, but where is it written in stone that you have to buy into that, I told her. Expectations be damned. The meaning of Christmas is what you bring to it. If it is the religious significance then there are any number of churches with like minded folks to fulfill that impulse. Beyond that is our thankfulness and celebration of the good in our lives, not only between family and friends yet also amongst your fellows in your community and around the world.
This is very true, Warped9, and I think you've expressed it nicely. I'll add that a couple of years ago (on the heels of an unrelated depression), I became very "down" on Christmas. But I couldn't just not celebrate it, as I had a 4 year old child to think about. So, I decided to ask myself, "What does this have to do with the birth of Christ?" before buying into any of the usual traditions. It was a freeing experience for me (and, as a happy incidental, way less expensive). If I couldn't come up with an answer for why I needed to do or have something without tortured logic, I jettisoned it. We still have a scaled down Christmas because of this mindset, and our kids haven't grown up with the gimme-gimme expectation of the holiday.

This works for me because Christmas is a religious holiday in our family, but I think a similiar "What is this really all about?" approach could work for anyone else overwhelmed by the relentless effort to separate you from your money during December.

Sheliak November 19 2008 03:56 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...

The meaning of Christmas...
is a Mystery.

Christus natus hodie, ex Maria Virgine.

B.J. November 19 2008 04:08 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
Very nicely said, Warped9! I could stand to take some of that to heart myself sometimes.

Butters November 19 2008 05:01 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I've been pondering Christmas myself lately. It is over commercialised and it does begin too early, the Christian message has been lost on most people in general anyway so its not the lack of God that drives the increasingly dire Christmas period. The trouble I find with Christmas, as thirtysomething, is that it just doesn't seem special anymore.

For children maybe, but in developed countries, most people already have everything they want. The special treats and novelties of Christmas are available all year round. People send Halloween and easter cards now, kids get big ticket gifts for birthdays or even just because they throw a tantrum, seasonal food is available all year round. Shopping for normal groceries becomes an exercise in futility as you come to hate your fellow man who stands between your and getting on with your life. Theres nothing special about Christmas, it just (alot) more of the same, but with decorations and a guilty obligation to join people you don't like to do something wouldn't want to do anyway.

I do look forward to Christmas Day, I will cook a nice big meal, exchange gifts with my nearest and dearest and then probably walk down the beach to the pub. What I don't like is taking gifts from family that don't really know me well enough to purchase something I would like or need, but wich then obligates me to spend money I don't have on something equally innappropriate. I do not like the panic buying that starts at the beginning of december. Having shops heaving with the haunted miserable souls determined to make this Christmas the best one ever. Its the whole pressure and guilt thing, even which part of the country to spend the say in becomes an issue.

It all just feels too forced and stressful to be the most wonderful time of the year for me.

Warped9 November 19 2008 06:00 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...

Butters wrote: (Post 2311360)
It all just feels too forced and stressful to be the most wonderful time of the year for me.

Which underlies my approach to making of it only what you want and to hell with the rest of it. You are not wholly responsible for other people's unreasonable expectations.

Nerys Ghemor November 19 2008 06:06 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
It all depends on how you handle the gift-giving. There's no reason you have to get something GI-FREAKING-NORMOUS in order for it to be a good gift. At this point I only have a few gifts I have to think about buying (my parents--even though I'm out of the house, they still let me sign onto their gifts to everyone else as long as I kick in part of the cost), but usually what I do is pick out some CDs or DVDs I think they'll like. They tend not to do a lot of shopping for themselves, so usually those come as a surprise. Still, I've gotten pretty good at knowing what they're going to like.

To me that's the fun of it--catching them by surprise. Even though it's quite small in comparison to what some people do for Christmas, that's really all I feel like I need to do: just show that I gave some thought to it and that's enough. It doesn't have to be an extravaganza to be special. Maybe it's helpful that I just don't come from a family of big spenders, including most of the extended family with only one or two exceptions I can think of. So nobody gets bent out of shape over who spent what, who could afford what, etc. And that's the way it should be: giving a little gift out of kindness than sweating it over some huge mountain of them.

iguana_tonante November 19 2008 07:01 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...

The meaning of Christmas... that stealing other's holidays is cool. ;)

Warped9 November 19 2008 07:37 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
Perhaps the questions should be: what does it mean for you and what do you enjoy about Christmas?

I agree with what was said above. When I was a kid it was much about receiving gifts. But as I've gotten older I find more enjoyment in planning surprises. But I'm also realistic in terms of what I can afford. I also like to personalize my gifts when possible by making the gift myself or trying to choose something particular to the intended person.

WillsBabe November 19 2008 10:07 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I'm afraid that I've got a bit of a downer on Christmas. For me it means being the dutiful daughter in law and sister in law and travelling the length and breadth of the country to spend it in other people's houses. It also means an annual wracking of brains to decide what to buy people, although I am less concerned about the costs involved. For some (probably psychological) reason I'm always knackered leading up to Christmas and just wish it would get here and be over with. I also think about members of my family who have passed away and who I miss and I lament that those times are gone forever. I try hard to be joyful and make new memories for the next generation, but my heart's just not in it.

Warped9 November 19 2008 10:29 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I understand the difficulties. I have one that I'm inevitably reminded of even though I make an effort not to dwell upon it: I'm lonely. I don't have anyone special to plan and share my Christmases with. Yes, I still have my parents and family and friends, but I would dearly love to have some romance in my Christmas. I suppose that is partly why I throw myself into projects around this time, to occupy myself and have something to be cheerful about.

Hugo Rune November 19 2008 10:49 PM

Re: The meaning of Christmas...
I don't really understand christmas... but then, hey, I don't understand the big deal about Birthdays either (haven't celebrated one in 22 years).

However, there are some friends and family members who adore the season (especially my mother), so for a week-or-so every year I put away my curmudgeon-mental-utility-belt and do my utmost to make their holiday as pleasant as possible. I don't care who gives me what, if anything at all, but I do rather go out of my way to get them each something small, special and thoughtful.

I see these people once, maybe twice a year, so I attempt to make it as memorable for them as I can. Oh, and I cook. Christmas for me is all about trying new recipes, new food-stuffs. Last years home-made sushi Boxing Day dinner was a smash!

I guess Christmas does actually bring out the best in me. Rather a pity I revert back to the cynical, mysanthropic, grumpy SOB mindset I seem to dwell in.

Hugo - Not a Scrooge, or a Grinch... in fact, not sure what he is

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