Christmas has arrived again, as it is wont to do, and just like that, everybody loses their mind.
In its purist form Christmas is a religious holiday during which followers of Christ celebrate his incarnation, the entering of God into human history - the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. In latter days, however, it's come to mean something entirely different, as if, somewhere along the way, the original celebration crawled into a chrysalis and emerged a completely different animal.
These days, Christmas is chiefly a festival of consumerism. A celebration hosted, promoted, and managed by Capitalism to prop-up the economy. Indeed, Christmas is now synonymous with consumption. If you could take everything said and done in it's name, sort it into piles: Social, Theological, Material, etc. etc., and put each on the scales, the vast, hulking, majority would concern the exchange of currency for goods.
Goods. As if that's an apt descriptor for the junk we gift to one another. Honestly, how many times in your entire life have you opened a present and said "this is just what I need" without lying through your teeth. Never. Nobody ever gets just what they need. They mostly get junk that was bought by someone compelled to buy something, anything, under a throbbing sense of obligation.
"Steve and Jenny gave us a gift? Dammit. What are we going to get them now? Are they even present-worthy friends? Have we got something re-gift-able? What time is Woolies open till? Dammit!"
Why do I care about all this? Not particularly because I want to preserve the purity of the religious holiday - I'm not sure it was ever so pure to begin with. No, I'd like us to redirect our energies from shopping to something far more momentous: merrymaking.
Merrymaking. The act of gathering family and friends and co-workers and neighbours, setting time aside, putting our collective feet up, opening a bottle of something good, and training our minds chiefly on the task of recreation, restoration, relaxation, and refreshment.
In a day when more bottles are being emptied for the purpose of self-medication than merriment, we'd do well to apply ourselves to this higher calling. The Psalmist had it right when he praised the Lord thus:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man's heart.
So by this point in the piece, you're saying to yourself, By jove! He's right you know. Christmas really should be all about making merry and whatnot!
Sorry, but here's why our plan won't work under the current Christmas regime: making merry, like making anything of worth, requires energy, resources, attention, time; all of which we have little to none of by the time Christmas finally rolls around. We're too exhausted from struggling through shops swollen with fellow inmates and the stress of trying to remember who we're to buy for and what and why. In short, genuine merrymaking first requires that we rest.
So, if you're still committed, and we're going to make merry (and I highly recommend that we do it, and do it well), then we'll need to forsake the now entrenched habit of meaningless gift procurement and presentation. And why not? What do we have to lose? When you think about the merry we could make with the resources we'd save, it makes good Christmas sense.