The World, 20th December 1893
An Atrocious Institution.
Like all intelligent people, I greatly dislike Christmas.
It revolts me to see a whole nation refrain from music for weeks together in order that every man may rifle his neighbour's pockets under cover of a ghastly general pretence of festivity. it is really an atrocious institution, this Christmas. We must be gluttonous because it is Christmas. We must be insincerely generous; we must buy things that nobody wants, and give them to people we don't like; we must go to absurd entertainments that make even our little children satirical; we must writhe under venal officiousness from legions of freebooters, all because it is Christmas - that is, because the mass of the population, including the all-powerful middle-class tradesman, depends on a week of licence and brigandage, waste and intemperance, to clear off its outstanding liabilities at the end of the year.
As for me, I shall fly from it all tomorrow or next day, to some remote spot miles from a shop, where nothing worse can befall me than a serenade from a few peasants, or some equally harmless survival of medieval mummery, shyly offered, not advertised, moderate in its expectations, and soon over.
In town there is, for the moment, nothing for me or any honest man to do.
~George Bernard Shaw
I don't share his disdain for Christians (well, unless someone is foisting their ideas on me without my invitation), but I bulk of his statement does seem to strike at a place in me that has been struck with this many times before now. And frankly, that place is getting sore from the repeated strikes!
So here's what entered my mind ....
First, what a surprise to me that this isn't a recent occurrence in our lives! I thought it was, based on my own life experiences. When I was a child I asked Santa for one thing. Well, OK, sometimes more, but usually just two or three in the style of "I really want _____, but if you can't bring me that, I would like _____ or _____." I'm pretty sure that was under the advice of my mother who knew that three gifts were not feasible. I think she also wanted me to learn to think carefully about what I wanted most, a skill I've all but forgotten, I must admit. Anyway .... In addition to what Santa brought, there was usually another gift or two from my parents, gifts from siblings as finances allowed, and occasionally something from extended family. And I remember my childhood as being a happy one. I don't recall feeling deprived, ever. I was always happy with what I got, and if I didn't get what I asked for, I don't remember thinking about it, because I was delighted with what was under the tree.
Second, I said recently that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it does not include any gift-giving practices. It has been reserved for remembrance, for acknowledging the gifts already received in our lives, for sharing what we have with loved ones by way of feasting and gathering for fellowship. I really, really like that.
Christmas has become so commercialized and plastic, in my opinion. Children have lists that are l-o-n-g, and parents scramble to buy every gift on that list. It often feels to me like a competitive sport! And in the process of all this, the meaning of Christmas is often forgotten. Whether you are big-time Christian or not, this just seems so wrong, letting Christmas gifting practices over shadow the underlying and valid reason for the holiday .... the ultimate gift given to us, one that can not be duplicated! And we shouldn't try to do so. Christ's gift can not be represented with dolls or toy army tanks or iPods.
As I watch TV, I am essentially repulsed by the onslaught of commercials that say "Buy this! Buy that! If you don't have this, you're not up to standard!" This happens all year, of course, but it is sickeningly prominent at this time of the year. I'd love to see this turned around, brought back to a level that is more in line with our current economy and with the true "reason for the season." Alas .... It won't happen in my lifetime.
How do you feel about this holiday? Do you agree with Georgie and me? What kind of changes would you like to see in this (or another) holiday?
And, BTW, I'm not really Scrooge. Or the Grinch. Just grouchy!! LOL!