Keep Christ out of this Christmas

As strange as this sounds, I am here to sing the praises of the Baltimore Sun editors who to conceived and executed the following A1 Christmas season feature that — praise the Lord — contains absolutely no religious material or sentiment whatsoever (with the possible exception of Baachus and there may be a golden calf in here somewhere).

No, this story is about the real American Christmas, to one that rocks our world from Black Friday until Christmas Day, before our culture rolls into the holy days known as the NFL playoffs.

While reading this thing, I kept waiting for the moment when the “C” word would or would not be used, in place of the safe, secular “holidays” incantation.

The premise for this story is that it’s hard to get American men to do their duties this time of year, which means heading to the nearest shopping mall and doing their part to keep their marriages and/or families united and the nation’s economy intact. Something must be done.

The answer is to combine alcohol, cigars, grilled fat, credit cards and jewelry. Thus, the headline:

Looking for every sale, retailers inject testosterone into holiday shopping

Malls and other businesses try to lure elusive guy shoppers with manly mainstays like booze and beef

And here is the heart of the matter — the reason for the season.

Clergy may want to sit down. Ready? Now proceed into these summary paragraphs.

… (If) men won’t go to the malls, the vendors are coming to them — either that or doing everything to make their shops as tavern-like and man-friendly as possible.

“If it wasn’t for a strong Christmas and men coming in and purchasing from the certain places, like the jewelry stores, I’m not so sure they’d be in business,” says Nancy Hafford, executive director at Towson Chamber of Commerce and planner of the shopping district’s men’s event for Dec. 22. “They tend to buy larger gifts, they just do.”

To attract the swaggering, Grillo & Co. jewelers on Allegheny Avenue will be pitching an outdoor tent for men’s night where guys can puff on stogies and quaff wine, lest the diamonds and pearls start to sap anyone’s virility. …

Manor Tavern advertised its first attempt at men’s night by pointing to bourbon, single malts and — the piece de resistance — manly one-pound slabs of prime rib. If there was a salad included, the tavern kept that to themselves.

When I say that this is a totally religion-free Christmas story, what I really mean is that it is a story free of the messages of Advent, Christmas, Chanukah or any other religious season that I am aware of. I am also not joking when I say that I am thankful that the editors put absolutely zero religious content into this awesome materialist mash up.

This is a Christmas story for everyone whose Christmas is completely based on the rites of mall and Mammon.

My question is simple: Should the story have said as much? Should it have embraced its anti-Christmas vibe and run with it? This is, after all, The Holidays as they are now defined in mass media. Should the The Sun have proudly stated the obvious, for those who believe?

Put the cash in Christmas. Go ahead, name it and claim it.

Even barrel-aged bravery couldn’t embolden guys to approach the spa stand.

“I was over there and saw ‘breast enhancement’ and walked away fast,” said a still-unnerved Bill Varnell of Glen Rock, Pa. “No way.”

Varnell did buy some spices — a packet of the “flat iron steak rub.” “My wife loves my cooking,” he said.

It was a quiet night for Laurie Imhoff, who came from Catonsville to try to sell quilted purses and bags. She suspected what with the drinks and all their buddies around, the men were having trouble focusing.

“I can’t imagine my husband ever going to something like this,” she said. “I think it’s a neat concept because they don’t like going to malls.” …

Clearly, newspapers have a challenge when they are covering these kinds of stories.

This is A KIND of Christmas story, after all. It’s hard work and somebody has to do it. This may even be the dominant story that has to be written. However, isn’t this really THE HOLIDAYS story? Or is that an editorial statement?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • sari

    Funny article that should’ve been on the front page of the business section, not A1. I grew up in a family business (retail and manufacture) and later worked in retail (sales/mgmt/purchasing). Used to be that men came out of the woodwork the week prior to the big day whether they liked the mall or not. The unit sales were always larger, partly, I think, because most men at that time left household expenses to their wives and had no idea what things actually cost. That, and they were desperate (free gift wrap moved a lot of merchandise).

    And yes, religion was rightly omitted from the article.

  • David Rupert

    Rare that a business section would take this on. And rarer yet that they would have a true Christmas religion tone to it.

    My thought? Let the pagans have their holiday?

    David, Red Letter Believers, “Salt and Light”

  • carl jacobs

    OK, so let’s just admit up front that the wrong vendors showed up for this event. The Engraved Bottle of Bourbon tells you everything. The people from Victoria’s Secret should have set up a booth to sell gift cards. They would have made boatloads of money. After a couple of drinks, the guys would have been shelling out $200 easy. After several drinks, they would have competed with each other to buy the largest gift card. (Guys can make a competition out of anything.) But a breast implant? Is there really a guy out there who is stupid enough to buy his wife a breast enhancement for Christmas. If there is one, you had better find him quick. His kind tends to have a really short lifespan. “Look at what I got you, Honey” will be chiseled as an epitaph on his tombstone.

    Alas, but there is a much more effective strategy to convince your average American guy to shop at Christmas. The good old American teenage daughter. Trust me when I say this for I speak from experience. The year I began shopping for Christmas with my older daughter was a revelation of biblical proportions. She knew what to buy. She knew where to buy it. She made good choices. And she did it fast. All I had to do was 1) drive and 2) pay. A weekend of misery was reduced to a few short hours on a Saturday afternoon. No decisions. No fuss. Clean. Efficient. Everyone is happy. Especially me. So if I was a retailer, I would focus some efforts on holding Father-daughter events. That’s were the payoff is found. I will spend the money. But I really don’t want to guess whether my wife would like that knitted whatsit or not.

    Of course the religion angle in all this is the high correlation between religious belief and having children. To have a teenage daughter, one must first have a daughter. This is just one more aspect of the impact of collapsing birthrates on western economies. Fewer men have daughters to help them shop, and so less shopping gets accomplished. Oh, well. At least Bourbon bottle engravers and Victoria’s Secret will do OK. But it does leave open the question “Who is this gift really for anyways?”