Christmas – Stop the Insanity

There has been a rash of activity on the Pagan side of the internet this week about Christmas and what – if anything – those of us who aren’t Christians should be doing with it. It began with this Wild Hunt post by Jason Pitlz-Waters, which summarized his entry on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” question “what is Christmas all about?” Jason basically argues that much of Christmas comes from older, pagan, universal Winter traditions, and thus belongs to everyone.
Thorn Coyle took another angle, arguing that Christmas has become a Frankenstein’s monster that does a disservice to the true meanings of both the Christian and the Pagan holidays. Follow-up posts here and here generated a ton of commentary, ranging from the supportive to the insightful to the incendiary.
While the tone of Jason’s original essay was light and positive and I generally agree with his thoughts, ultimately I think Thorn is right – the “traditional” American Christmas is a monster than needs to be destroyed. And here’s why.
My mother is retired and living on the proverbial “fixed income.” She has her savings and in general she’s doing OK (and would be doing better if some other relatives would stop asking for money, but that’s another rant for another time), but she can’t afford to spend a ton of money on Christmas presents. Yet every year, she does.
This year, as every year, she asks me what I want for Christmas. This year, as every year, I try to talk her down, name things that are simple and inexpensive. And this year, as most years, when I open her gift I find something I don’t need and don’t really want.
My mother spent money she needs for other things to buy me something I don’t need, don’t want, and can’t use. Now I have to lie my mother and tell her how much I like it, so I don’t make things worse. Why? Because of the “Christmas spirit?” Because of love and generosity?
No, because of social expectations.
The marketing-driven consumer orgy that is Christmas must die. Look at the car commercials – you should give your spouse a car for Christmas??? It’s no accident that the biggest auto advertisers are Lexus and Mercedes. Jewelry commercials? These messages trickle down to the rest of us, pushing us to participate in this monstrosity.
Celebrate the birth of Jesus or the rebirth of the Sun. Gather with friends and family and your co-religionists. Celebrate – sensibly, sanely, sustainably.
But stop the insanity.
I’m off to a family dinner. Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, and blessed be.
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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16189203446024144578 Gordon

    This looks like two separate things as I read it.

    It looks like a mother who loves her son and would spend her last cent on him.

    As I interpret it, she would do that with or without the car advertisements.

    And -just to be a little bit contrary- I would say that is the spirit of Christmas right there. :)

    (PS – Obviously I'm with you on the consumerism, it just looked like two things to me.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00875369837359076688 John Beckett

    Gordon, you may be right that there are two issues here. I have other thoughts I want to develop a little more thoroughly before posting them.

    As for my mother, she does and she would. Long before I heard about the Goddess, she showed me what the feminine side of the Divine looked like. But she is expressing that love in this way because she feels she must – Christmas REQUIRES presents. It is that cultural expectation I'd like to change.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10388428489163998550 TommyElf

    John;

    I tend to agree with Coyle's perspective on this. I tend to have a minimalist spin on this time of year (about mid October to mid January) — I usually avoid most of the talk surrounding it as well. Instead, I focus on meditative practice when I am alone — and on my family (my extended family) when I am in large gatherings.

    Gifts. I am highly uncomfortable with being gifted. When people ask me that same question — I usually respond with "gift cards" as my response. When I get that quizzical look (which doesn't happen much anymore now that most folks know how I view it), I usually explain that in getting the gift cards, I can take my time and purchase a gift that I would both want and need at that particular time. Its not that I don't appreciate the gift that they are providing, just that the gift card becomes something flexible enough for my own personal use. *Usually* that works — but I still tend to get the occasional sweater that someone may or may not think I look good in. :)

    Regardless, hope you and your family (blood and extended) had a good $holiday season…


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