For many of us, Christmastime is signified by the hallmark of holiday lights, Christmas trees, delicious smells of cloves and cinnamon, and the distant tinkling of bells. A rich time of the year, one that finds us typically visiting shops, large and small, to dizzyingly purchase a cavalcade of items we’ve excitedly chosen to gift our family members and friends.
Still, we close our eyes and smile thinking back to the time when our parents or grandparents lived. We sigh as we remember them telling of how they were delighted having received perhaps a simple rag doll made by some member of their family. And that was it. Sometimes they didn’t receive anything at all. But it didn’t seem to matter.
Then we squint our eyes and wonder. How is it we’ve arrived at a time where the norm for most on Christmas day is a sitting room strewn with torn wrapping paper surrounding a vast array of gadgets, toys, bottles, and clothes? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’d want people to not bother giving things to their loved ones. But it seems all that stuff is ruling our lives – finding it, buying it, using it, and then forgetting it. Is it possible for us not to immediately look to the shops as the source of the heartfelt pleasure we hope to evoke?
For too long, we’ve been inundated with ads for countless items of every sort. Buy this and you’ll be able to make the perfect meal. Purchase something else and our hair will be forever ideally coiffed. What about this item? It’s sure to be the most comfortable pair of shoes you’ve ever had, we’re ever so earnestly told. And so on. We see the ads on television, in magazines and newspapers. Often, they’re things our friends and family have purchased throughout the year. We are told how we would be happy if we only had such and such an item. We are assailed with messages of how critical these bits and bobs happen to be. At the same time, we’re incessantly informed of how we’d be sporty, an adventurer of all time, sophisticated, articulate and so on, if we were to use a particular bit of stuff. Throughout our lives we are battered with these words.
All this is couched in the often blatantly consumerist society in which we work and play. Consumerism is defined as the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s well-being and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions. Sound familiar? We live in a world where a vast assortment of items are produced, one that is guided by a mantra of planned obsolescence and non-stop advertising. Ultimately, the idea is for us to be convinced our lives would never be the same if we didn’t have them.
It works. Check out any shop on Boxing Day in Canada, now Boxing Week. Black Friday, an entity that was once solely followed by our friends to the south, now exists worldwide. It’s been joined by Cyber Monday. Just to get a break from all that spending, it’s followed by “Giving Tuesday,” sort of a repentance for all that shameless bowing we’ve conceded to over the past two days.
I don’t know how we can pull ourselves out of the spell spun by many businesses to embrace consumerism. Although, I am put in mind of an old Christmas favourite, one that seemed to perfectly capture what seems to be the true moral of the story.
We always watch with glowing eyes as the Grinch masterfully puts into play his devious plan, ever witnessed by Max his loyal and obedient dog. Poor Max is clearly torn by his loyalty to his friend, the Grinch, and what he knows to be dastardly wrong.
The Grinch expertly steals all the toys, baubles, the “Checkerboards, bizilbigs, popcorn, and plums!” But while racing up Mount Crumpet to roar with devilish delight at how he’d ruined their Christmas, he looked down and what did he see!
“Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing without any presents at all!
He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. ‘How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!’
He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
Unquestionably so. The Who’s were still coming together, holding hands and singing with resounding enthusiasm at the coming of Christmas. It didn’t matter. The torn wires hanging limp, the trees empty of ornaments and all the gifts gone were meaningless. The Grinch watched with amazement and awe.
There’s something to heed in the Grinch’s story. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with finding gifts in shops. Every now and then, we’ll find just the right thing. Still, we must remember how there is no need to be beset with a high fever to purchase countless “fuzzles, tringlers and trappings.” Christmas will always come with none of these added extras, all the same. It is with our full hearts that we welcome this beautiful and majestic time. Merry Christmas!