I guess with all of the endorsement deals and appearance fees he’s signed over the years…
… the modern-day Madison Avenue creation we call Santa has been able to pull down some serious dough-ray – me and built himself a car collection that might even make Jay Leno a bit envious…
A pretty far cry from the Saint — Saint Nicholas — upon whom this modern-day marketing miracle is, in part, based.
As some friends have probably figured-out by now, I’m something of a free agent / agnostic when it comes to religion and have been since my teens. However, having attended Presbyterian Sunday school as a small child and studied theology in college, I understand the stories / history of Christmas, Hanukkah, Saint Nicholas and the other winter solstice celebrations. Through that understanding, I’ve always been able to appreciate and enjoy the spirit of the season and have done my best to enjoy all of what the holiday season has to offer by “playing along” with many of the traditions. For example, Debbie very much enjoys the Christmas holiday and likes to have a tree, lights, music and all of the other things associated with a contemporary, traditional Christmas. I also like holiday get-togethers, parties and the like where friendship is celebrated more than anything else.
Sadly, I’ve not been able to get excited about the holiday season this year and I’ve come to realize it’s the rabid over-emphasis that’s been placed on the materialistic stuff and “showing off” or one-upmanship that’s always front and center as the religious aspects have become too taboo to bring up in the public dialog.
More to the point, I had an interesting discussion with the woman who cuts my hair a few weeks back, noting she is a Muslim from the middle east who immigrated to the U.S. several years back. While making the typical idle chit-chat that stylists do with clients, she asked if I was ready for Christmas. I said I was not, and shared that I was having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year given how the “reason for the season” seemed to be of little consequence anymore. She then shared how she finds the season to be a challenge for her and her children. She went on to note that even as a Muslim she had learned the story of Christmas and its importance to Christians… but had never heard of Santa Claus until coming to the states. “What was this Santa Claus thing?” Back home she noted that there was always a modest gifting of money from elders to children around the winter solstice, but the level of avarice and wanting by her son’s school mates and friends here in the states was mind-boggling. Notes were even sent home to all parents letting them know that “Santa” would be coming to the school and that their children should bring their Christmas gift lists to school.
It truly underscored how hard it can be for families who do not celebrate the classic Norman Rockwell Christmas to teach moderation to their children in the face of the annual buying frenzy that has overshadowed the religious and seasonal events upon which the holidays are based. But, even the classic Norman Rockwell Christmas has been tarnished by excessive gift giving where children and even adults quickly become somewhat disappointed as they sit buried in a sea of wrapping paper and gifts there are no more boxes to unwrap, often bemoaning what they didn’t get or anxiously turning their attention to what they might still get from grandparents, parents, other friends and relatives or even Santa as part of their holiday haul, much of which will never be used or appreciated as much as a single, special and thoughtful gift.
So, how much is enough? And why do people feel compelled to buy “stuff” for the sake of buying stuff, much of which is never truly wanted or needed. Interestingly, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Charles M. Schultz (Peanuts & Charlie Brown) tried to take this head-on in their holiday stories, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and the first Peanuts animated feature film, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Ironically, the message got lost in the very marketing that surrounded those important stories, dismissed as children’s stories that were really meant for adults.
Don’t get me wrong, I / we love having the family over for the holidays and gatherings of friends, so perhaps as we spend time with our children and grandkids and other family over the next few days we’ll be able to rekindle the true holiday spirit. That and giving to charities or over-tipping has been another way we find some satisfaction and feel better in tune with the season’s true spirit, but at the end of the day… I’ve really grown weary of this Santa Claus thing. Perhaps its time to get back to remembering the reason for the season.
So, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the birth of Christ. To those who celebrated Hanukkah, I hope it was a great and satisfying event, and the same goes to everyone else who has found something to celebrate, including the stories and anecdotes of family and friends who have passed and whose memories, lessons and expectations we carry with us into the new year.