Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Season

(News-Herald, November 2003) Time now to enter the holiday season. Really, finally time—I do my best not to acknowledge any pre-Thanksgiving Christmas activities.
I remember Christmas. I’m sure many of you middle-aged or older folks do, too. I’m not sure what younger people are going to remember when they grow up.
There was a time when it was kind of fashionable to complain about the commercialization of Christmas. Now it hardly seems worth mentioning; Christmas has been swallowed up like a rabbit going down an alligator’s gullet.
In stores, the Christmas displays go up when Halloween items go down. Thanksgiving, once the opening salvo of the Christmas season, is now just a small speed bump on the rocket train to Consumerville. Thanksgiving has been dropped from the mainstream of consumer advertising; Lord knows, if we spent too much time reflecting on what we were truly thankful for, it could occur to us that buying a bunch of stuff might not be the highest, finest expression of the human spirit.
And of course I’m in error to refer to Christmas anyway. In an attempt to broaden commercial appeal, we now lump it with Hannukah and Kwanzaa and National Pickle Day and heaven knows what else into some vague sort of Be Nice and Buy Stuff season.
It is now “the holidays” or “the holiday season.” Christmas has literally become the generic holiday, stripped of every speck of meaning or purpose, except of course to buy stuff. God bless all the music programs in the area that present Christmas concerts instead of “holiday concerts”—may they have large, appreciative audiences until the day the ACLU comes to cart them away.
And poor Santa, still the most shamelessly exploited pitching device in advertising; in recent years the American flag has given him a run for his money, but the usually big poorly bearded guy still leads the pack. Santa pitches everything from soft drinks to furniture and barely bats an eye. In a way, I’m thankful for his existence as a crass commercial symbol, because otherwise I’m afraid we might be treated to the spectacle of, say, the three wise men bringing a twelve-pack of Coke to the manger while Mary decides she really needs to rest by kicking back in a La-Z-Boy recliner.
I have thought for years that it was time for a Take Christmas Back movement, but I think we’ve all been too busy shopping to organize it. Perhaps it’s the kind of battle that can only be fought guerilla-style. So let me offer some possible acts that you can commit on your own to help reclaim the season.
Turn off the TV. At least some. The constant stream of advertisements contributes to the debasement of the season. Even if you’re watching a decent and respectable holiday program on the tube, every 42 minutes of program comes with 18 minutes of advertising.
Would any of us really, seriously announce, “I thought we’d sit down and get in the mood for Christmas tonight by watching a half hour of commercials.” I doubt it. Not that I don’t appreciate my seasonal tv—the original Grinch and Rudolph are must-see’s in my home. But the beauty of technology is that I can now watch those on tape or dvd without a barrage of sales pitches along with them.
Enjoy local Christmas stuff. There are plenty of real live people making real live Christmas stuff happen right here in the county. Franklin’s Light up Night is such a great spectacle that I can just about forgive it for happening before Thanksgiving. Franklin Civic Operetta’s annual presentation of Messiah highlights along with some more modern Christmas music makes a great night of musical decorating, like a gorgeous Christmas painting in sound. Every high school in the county offers seasonal musical treats as well. None of these events include commercials.
In addition, the vast number of churches in Venangoland guarantees a wide assortment of Christmas events to suit just about any taste. I know there are some folks who get uncomfortable with talk of God and Jesus and stuff, but in all fairness, They were there long before Santa and Coca-Cola.
Plan to extend the season in meaningful ways. At this time of year, many many groups decide that it would be nice to go sing carols for shut-ins or at an old folks home. If you have the urge to spread that holiday cheer, that’s a good thing. But while you’re at it, why not make a commitment to come back and visit in February or March, when winter is dragging on and the Christmas Outreach Season is long past.
Remember—money can be replaced, but the time you give to someone is irreplaceable, and therefore the most valuable gift of all.

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