While I was playing Materia Magica today, somebody mentioned “Xmas”. That apparently bothered somebody else, who said it’s demeaning and offensive to take Christ out of Christmas. That could have degenerated quickly, but oddly enough it didn’t.
I won’t get into how X can be taken as a text equivalent of a cross in that context, how organized religion is generally a tool in the hands of the power-hungry or how if Jesus would have known it’d turn out like it did he’d have probably went back to practicing the family trade and died of old age after many years of running the ancient equivalent of a furniture empire, I only want to write a little about what I mentioned at the end of my previous post, how the Church of Consumerism has taken over this time of the year from any and all other religions.
If you look back, you’ll find that giving gifts wasn’t originally a part of Christmas. But since the date for Christmas was chosen so it would compete with major ancient Pagan festivals in hopes of gaining more converts, some of the customs associated with said festivals transferred over to Christmas and giving gifts was one of them. Priests were frowning on the practice for some time, but then they realized it’s not going to go away and they found a way to give it a meaning, by associating it with the gifts of the Magi. Still, for a very, very long time the gifts were only symbolic and even when that changed no business was feeding off it. And don’t tell me there were no businesses at the time because economics have existed since the dawn of man.
Turning symbolic gifts into real gifts seems like a normal process to me, an evolution of a custom to make it serve a real purpose while keeping the motivation intact. And you can’t really find a business aspect of Christmas until the nineteenth century, and less than a hundred years ago it was still by and large a religious event even so. Then that changed and that change was no longer a normal evolution of a custom. It wasn’t responding to the needs of those practicing the custom, it was the result of a manipulation from the outside.
I won’t bring good old Saint Nick into this and won’t get into who created Santa Claus or how Coca Cola managed, with what undoubtedly was one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time, to imprint his current image into the collective mind. That campaign might have started everything, but it did it by showing the others that it can be done, that customs can be hijacked and advertising can convince people to believe differently. Yes, it proved a point, but a bigger problem were those who later made use of that point for their own ends.
Still, the biggest problem, and the main culprits, were, and are, the billions of people who fell, and keep falling, for it! Big Business shepherds are guilty of attempting to lead their herd to a different, and worse, pasture simply because there was a nice inn and whorehouse nearby for them to use, but they could never have succeeded if the rest would have refused to be sheep. Or maybe it would have been possible even so, but I somehow doubt they’d have spent all the time and energy required to herd, say, cheetahs!
So we brought it back to the people, as they say. The people’s indifference, the people’s lack of initiative, the people’s lack of fighting power… The people’s need to be led just so they won’t need to take responsibility for their own actions, their own choices, just so they’ll be able to say “it wasn’t me” and point fingers when something goes wrong.
Honestly, how many people complain about how commercial Christmas is these days, how they’re assaulted from all sides by predatory advertising, how crowded, stressful and devoid of meaning it is, how all the joy is gone? Then how many of them lose that train of thought after they see the latest special offer for that nice shiny thing they’ve wanted for so long? How many make gift lists including people they hardly know and add themselves to the crowds frantically searching for every item on said lists plus perhaps a few more things for themselves? How many send dozens, if not hundreds, of greeting cards? How many get into the decoration frenzy and buy “just this one” new thing to make the tree and the house look differently than it did last year since, of course, it wouldn’t look differently if they’d use the same items but change the arrangement or create their own things to add to the mix? And, worst of all, how many delegate their wallets to say they care, to speak for their hearts and minds?
Whether we’re talking about Christians wishing to put Christ back into Christmas, followers of any of a myriad other religions that wish not to be assaulted by a holiday that’s not their own or atheists and agnostics that simply wish for a period of rest and/or secular celebration, Consumermas bothers everybody… Seeing as it couldn’t do that if people would walk their talk, why don’t we?
Giving gifts on Christmas first happened because people wanted it to happen and then the nature of the gifts changed because people wanted it to change, so why couldn’t we do that again? All Big Business is saying is “If you need to give gifts anyway, why not buy them from us?”… How about we start answering them for a change?
And remember, the best things in life are free…