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.
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.