Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I’m dreaming of a consumerism-free christmas

My wife is a Christmas nut.  If she had it her way she would decorate for Christmas on November first, listen to nothing but Christmas music for two months and watch only Christmas movies until the new year.  I am more of the type to put up the Christmas tree on Christmas eve then take it down on the 26th.  We have had to work out some compromises over the years, but one thing I can’t stand in the way of with her is the viewing of Christmas movies. 

As I have watched these movies I’ve noticed that a lot of them have little to do with Christmas as all, but rather about finding some sort of purpose to life during the winter season.  Take “It’s a Wonderful Life” as an example.  As good as the movie may be, it has little to do with Christmas and a lot to do with realizing what is important in life.  Now don’t get me wrong.  This movie makes me cry every time I watch it.  Which is not something I really care to admit to all of my loyal blog readers, but this is all about being real right?  I think I cry because I hope in my life I am making a bigger impact than I realize.   

I think that is why we as a culture are drawn to the character of Santa.  In the midst of the consumerism of the season Santa is the guy who stands above us all as completely selfless.  The person who really believes to give is better than receive.  The only thing he wants is for the world to be a better place by encouraging good behavior.   (Of course I guess he could be doing it all for the free milk and cookies). 

Here is a video of the evolution of Santa Clause

There can be a lot of fun in celebrating Christmas and for using the name “Santa” to give a gift anonymously.  However when we stop and think about it for a second, the very image we have of Santa as being the selfless personification of Christmas may not be a healthy choice.

  • There is a reason that Santa is prominently displayed in malls and department stores.  Let’s put it this way: Santa Sells.  Does the saint of giving really entice us to spend more?
  • Behavior based on reward instead of respect.  When we as parents tell our kids that Santa watches over the naughty and nice and rewards good behavior with toys and bad behavior with coal we are allowing ourselves to be bypassed as primary influencer in our kids lives.  I want my kids to be good despite what the rewards may be.  Besides any intelligent kid would know historically and economically that coal is more a tradeable commodity than toys ever could be.  Also how many people have gotten coal? Where is the follow through?
  • How will manipulating our kids beliefs help them believe what we say is true.  I don’t want to sound nitpicky, but I work with teens and young adults that feel like their parents want them to believe in a lie.  Lies about marriage, family and love.  Lies about there being a God.  Lies about how life works.  Do we really need another thing to lie to our kids about?

Take some time this Christmas to figure out what is really important to you this Christmas.  You may find it has little to do with "Christmas" at all.
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