“I think everybody with half a heart tries to do their best to do their part of good during the holiday season.” - Darren Criss
No one is ever satisfied with the Holiday Season. There’s not enough religion, too much revelry, not enough charity, too much spending and generally the Spirit of it all is being continually “lost.”
For modern examples, we have Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street, saying, “Christmas is getting lost in the shuffle.” Even Charlie Brown was disappointed that his dog “went commercial” in his 1965 Christmas Special.
But, as it turns out, we’ve been dissatisfied with the Holidays, and bitching about its commercialization since the 1600s. Yes, going into debt in December is a bad move. Yes, we do not need all this stuff and it does not bring happiness. But, maybe it’s time to ask what is behind all this piled-on humbug of dissing the season century upon century?
The low hanging fruit here is the distancing of religion from the season. I mean, we keep calling it, “The Season,” but in our defense that’s because the celebrations this time of year come from many religious traditions, that go far beyond the obvious Jewish and Christian.
That leads to what is really behind this time-honored, religious disappointment around the Holidays. Increased tolerance. If one’s religion, or sect of religion, is not represented predominantly in one’s society, then that person’s in-group feels out. As globalization increases and societies become more diverse, it’s inevitable that we collectively honor more differences during “The Season.”
Enter The War on Christmas. But, it’s not as if Christians are united, even amongst themselves, about this issue. Today’s Christmas Warriors derive predominantly from the evangelical right in America. Oddly enough they stand against our nation's first Christian immigrants, the Puritans, who legally banned celebration of Christ’s Birth, denouncing their impious Catholic and Anglican brothers in Christ. All of this is brought up simply to illustrate that squabbling and infighting about religious observation in December is hardly new business.
Religion aside, there is still much talk about the Spirit of the season getting lost, as if it drank too much eggnog and wandered from the party. We can assume this spirit consists of giving, warmth, generosity, etc. Whatever it may be, we never have enough of it. But this dissatisfaction is not rooted in any factual information.
Let’s take charitable giving, a measurable hallmark of generosity and altruism. Nearly half of us give more in December than any other time of the year. And, get this, we have been, as a society, steadily giving MORE of what we earn, year-over-year, since the 1970s. Thanks in large part to another demonized portion of society -- social media -- which gifted us “Giving Tuesday,” which, in turn, generated $115 million dollars to charity in 2015, a 155% boost from 2014.
Okay, well, maybe we’re not spending enough time with family, doing time-honored traditions and having warm fuzzy experiences. We probably put too much value on shopping and the joy that brings. Nope. Pew Research finds that 69% of people say spending time with family brings them the most joy at the Holidays. Maybe the other 31% love shopping? Nope again. Only 1% say shopping brings them the most joy. What about that other 30%? More than half value religious reflection and the rest enjoy seeing other people happy this time of year.
What a bunch of commercial savages we have become!
Again, we ask, what is this strange and fabricated dissatisfaction with the holidays really about? A lot of it may simply be marketing. We hear over and over again that we’re not focusing on the right thing this time of year and we believe it. Or maybe we just long for a different kind of innocence or tradition we used to have in our personal Holiday’s past and project that longing out into the greater world.
Regardless of why we get down on the Holiday Season, we should know that the guilt and grump is hardly a necessary sentiment. In fact, it’s just a trendy cliche, and maybe it’s time we appreciate this great season of celebration and leave the Bah Humbug business behind us.