Thursday, November 12, 2015

Winning the Holidays

Now that Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, I suppose it's only natural that retailers will have their full attention on Black Friday and the visions of sugar plum receipts that are dancing in their heads.

As a full-blooded American I thought I'd become inured to the annual full-court press that constitutes Xmas marketing, but a recent internet ad slipped through my defenses. It was a video clip from a big box store exhorting listeners to buy something expensive (that would come in a big box) and thereby assure that you'd "win the holidays."

It made me want to puke. 

I get it that we live in a competitive culture and that it's considered fair game to manufacture demand, but who needs to "win" Christmas? Don't get me wrong. I am not a Scrooge about giving gifts, and I'm not writing to defend the role of Christ in Christmas. The holidays are precious to me for family time, and for reflection. It's precious as a fortnight when less work is expected and we honor more the relationships that should arguably be the center of our lives year round.

This year I will be with my two kids and their families in Las Vegas (at my my daughter Jo's house) and I am wholeheartedly looking forward to it.

I love the rituals of the holidays because they help renew ties among the people, and evoke common memories. Some things have been continued through the generations (in my case it's opening presents Christmas morning, rather than the night before; making pinwheel cookies and plum pudding with hard sauce) and some things have to be adapted to the situation—I won't be looking for a white Christmas in Las Vegas (there may be a dip in Jo's backyard Jacuzzi instead), yet I'll be blessed to be with both my kids and our extended family that day—eating, laughing, and playing games together.

My revulsion is over the notion that: a) Christmas gift-giving (a ritual I enjoy in moderation) has morphed into a competition; and b) you need to outspend everyone else to achieve satisfaction. Relationships among loved ones should precisely be the place where competition has no play. You don't buy love. Nor do you acquire your way to happiness.

While I'm OK with Green Bay battling upstart Minnesota at Lambeau Field for the NFC North title on the last game of the regular season Jan 3 (still comfortably within the 12 Days of Christmas), I draw the line at competing for love around the Christmas tree. It's a sad commentary on how far our culture has drifted when contributing to the GNP has become the reason for the season.

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