Print Edition: November 30, 2011
November is only nearing its end and I have already been bombarded with Christmas music and Yuletide advertising. If it were only the case that this apparent devotion to the holidays really meant joy and goodwill amongst men (and women). Alas, such early signs of Sinterklaas and Saturnalia mean no such thing. No, instead it is something much more momentous and oh so important: shopping season has arrived.
I am sure that there are some that find the whole experience enjoyable or gratifying. Gift giving to loved ones can be most uplifting and satisfactory, but I am at the point now where I find even that a sorry shield in the face of the onslaught of bad taste. The thought that I might soon have to brave the mall with the waves of bargain hunters haunts my dreams and gives me a chill so cutting that no amount of mulled wine can cure it. The Christmas tunes that will begin to fill the streets are tired and cry out to be funkified. But apart from some brave souls in Funkadactyl or Mannheim Steamroller, the sickly sweet fluff that fills all the stores and invades the radio pounds home one message over and over – it is time to shop!
It certainly did not used to be this way. Amongst the various denominations of Galileans that celebrate this feast, the Christmas season does not even begin until December 25. The month prior, beginning on the last Sunday of November, is a period called advent and is observed in preparation for the great feast to come. It is the beginning of the liturgical year and for many it is a solemn and exciting time, with the anticipation of the coming of the Christ.
With everything that Christmas and “Christmastime” has become, I would not even begin to contemplate calling this anything approaching a holy day. I am sure that if I were a believer, it would pain me to see a relatively minor festival ripped from its vestments, stripped of even the most superficial sanctity and reformulated into a capitalist extravaganza. What was it that Jesus said about material riches, again?
This year, I am going to do something entirely unoriginal and vainglorious. I am not going to buy anyone any Christmas presents, nor will I be indulging in the other secularized accoutrements (except for eggnog, because that is delicious). I will do my best to stay away from the malls and turn off the awfully infected radio, and rather than anxiously anticipating the 25th of December, I will look forward to an astronomically interesting date, the winter solstice. And most importantly, I will endeavour to be more joyous and generous than I otherwise am.
I do not expect anyone else to humour my proposal for a boycott of bad taste and Silver Bells. But being a little bit more reflective is something that all of us ought to strive for, especially in the face of such unthinking and unbridled buying. What could be more in the Christmas spirit than that?