At the annual Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the commercialization of Christmas and urged the faithful to “see through the superficial glitter of this season.”
We’ve lost the true meaning of the season, that we should all come together and, well, hmm… Sing around a decorated tree?
Wait. What’s the purpose of Christmas again?
All kidding aside, ’tis the season of celebrating the birth of Jesus in a little manager in Bethlehem. At least to the Christians. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Shinto, Shamanic, a few Christian faiths, atheists and agnostics — really, most of the world — don’t celebrate the religious-based version of Christmas.
But many of us decorate overpriced sheered evergreens, hang stockings by the fireplace (or, in my case, the wine chiller), and tell stories about a fat guy in a red suit who slides down your chimney — a felony in most states, by the way — to leave gifts for good kids. And we have no idea why.
And today, the day after Christmas, is one of the biggest retail holidays of the year — second to the day after Thanksgiving, when stores offer deep discounts to bargain-hunting folks starting their Christmas shopping.
It will likely be even more profitable for retailers considering it’s a holiday for most American workers. Meaning, they have nothing better to do than flock to the nearest mall and return all those gifts they got yesterday.
If the start of Christmas — Black Friday, on which retail sales totaled $10.6 billion, by the way — and the day after Christmas — today — are the bookends of the season, it’s obvious the holiday centers around shopping and spending money.
So what is Christmas, except a hugely profitable season for retailers and restaurants, many of which often spend the rest of the year in the red and are financially rescued during the last quarter of the year?
The gifts, though, aren’t the best part of Christmas to me. It’s getting together with friends and family, it’s hearing Christmas songs on the radio, it’s having an excuse to bake gingerbread and sugar cookies. I just love that the season compels us to do things we don’t do the rest of the year. And even if we shouldn’t wait until December to meet up with old friends or hand out cookies to co-workers, it’s still nice that we do it.
To me, that’s what Christmas is all about.
But I’m not returning my gifts!
Hope you all had a great holiday season!