Thursday, December 06, 2007

25 Days of Christmas: Controversy Part 1

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Christmas these days, and like any good controversy, it even has its own terms. "Christmas Creep" and "The War on Christmas" are the two you hear about a lot, and they are related, but different ("controversy cousins"?). Christmas creep relates to the fact that Christmas seems to creep earlier and earlier every year, meaning MORE Christmas. The War on Christmas is a more general term relating to the secularization & commercialization of Christmas, often epitomized with replacing the word Christmas with "holiday." So, in a way, The War on Christmas is effectively about how there is LESS Christmas. For our purposes, we are going to focus on Christmas Creep.

To be sure, these are over-generalizations. In a sense, both controversies are about the cheapening of Christmas. Gregg Easterbrook, an outspoken critic against Christmas Creep, had this to say about it in his November 26 TMQ Article:

"Why does the Christmas celebration start earlier every year? The commercial reasons are obvious; many retailers do a significant portion of their business during Christmastime, so the sooner the sleigh bells ring, the happier stores are. This year, retailers are said to be worried that gasoline and home-heating prices are poised to soar, so they hope holiday shoppers will spend before that happens. But there is a deeper reason Christmas starts earlier each year: We want to live in the Christmastime world, and this has nothing to do with religion. In the Christmastime world, children are happy, family is gathered round, and all the year's exhausting and stressful overwork has at least led to a pile of presents. Candles are lighted, and we listen for a sound in the distance. Just as our ancient ancestors must have dreamed of living always in the moment of the harvest, we want to live as long as possible in the moment of the holidays -- regardless of faith, since Santa comes to everyone. Christmastime also evokes the strongest positive memories of most people's childhoods -- of presents, singing, anticipation, and the adults forcing themselves to get along. The Christmas weeks are the time we believe all is right with the world, whether or not we actually go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. We want to enter the time of believing all is well, so every year we push up the start date."

There is something about this passage that really resonated with me, probably because it's true. I DO want to live in a Christmastime world. I love the fireplace, turkey buns, and driving up to a decorated house. I like believing, if only for a day, that all is right with the world. It may not be immediately obvious from the passage that I quoted here, but Mr. Easterbrook's body of work makes it very clear that he thinks this is a very bad thing (I'm not at all trying to pick on him. He's actually one of my favorite writers. If you haven't already, you should read The Progress Paradox). The question for each of us is if WE think it is a bad thing, and we will take up that issue in our next post.

1 comment:

Connie said...

It's good to know that the feelings that come from your Christmas memories as a child are happy ones. Let's give Sophie those same happy memories. For me, I can never completely relax and enjoy Christmas until the last gift is bought and wrapped and my nighmares of being in the store at ten minutes to closing with six gifts to buy stop because I finally have it all done. I don't like Christmas creep and don't listen to music or put up decorations until after Thanksgiving. It dilutes the feeling if you start too early.
So, that's my opinion for what its worth.