Crass Commercialization of Christmas--How to avoid in our Materialistic Society?


#1

Christmas is coming and the thought of all the secularism and greed that this holiday generates is depressing me already. It’s hard to avoid because everywhere you go is the barrage of commercialism that focuses on consumerism. I just can’t stand it!

This whole Walmart controversy made me think about this. Really, I think Christians ought to be more concerned about how retailers have hijacked a religious holiday for commercial gain, than about whether they say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holiday”.

I actually find Church even a little depressing on Christmas, packed with people who never usually go. I always get very claustrophobic. I feel guilty about those feelings, but I guess I’m just sick of Christmas being used to indoctrinate my family to be good consumers of goods made in China, with only a small obligatory portion of the holiday dedicated to God. I guess I’m feeling like “Bah Humbug!” The Christmas season is something I’m dreading. I long for simpler times.


#2

I have to disagree, not with the condemning of the commercialism, but with the overall tone of your post, dear SB.

In simpler times–way back when, Christmas wasn’t celebrated as it is now. It was secondary to Easter and a mere holy day of obligation to celebrate the Birth of Christ. It was St. Francis who brought it into popular devotion, so you can “blame” him. :smiley:

I too hate all the commercialism, but I can’t be upset by hearing Christmas hymns played in the stores or people looking forward to parties with family and friends because they are oases of faith and joy in the midst of a very hedonistic society.

Many people do just go through the motions or think the only flowers that ever decorate their parish church are poinsettias and lilies, but at least they make the effort to come to honor Christmas. God can work with even that much humility to draw them into deeper into their faith, so we can’t feel unhappy to see them in church.

The day the Christmas music and decorations are banned from the public places is the day I will know that the secularist have finally won. As long as people want to celebrate Christmas, I say more power to them, even if they don’t always do it for the right motives or even know what it is all about, because there is always hope that the Holy Family will soften their hearts and bring them back into fellowship with Christ and his Church.


#3

It’s really a shame the way our society has been taken over by consumerism. One way to combat it is to keep the religious significance strong within your own family. I plan on taking advantage of traditions like Advent calendars, Creche/Nativity scenes, and the wonderful monastic chants of the Advent season. I can’t wait to start Advent and Christmas traditions with our little one next year for his/her first Christmas. In the mean time, this Advent season will be a special one of expectation for us, waiting as we are until the end of winter for the nativity of our little one.

A pet peeve of mine about the holyday season is that so many people decorate for Christmas so early… already, there are decorations out all over the place: stores, neighbors, street corners, etc. I really prefer to keep Advent a season of waiting, and decorate no earlier than the third week of Advent, the week of joyful anticipation. Better yet, it would be really wonderful to hold off on the decorations until Christmas eve day, if possible.


#4

Dear Della,
I guess I’m just dreading the Holidays with all the pressure to spend money, the chessy secular Christmas songs, and the ‘reason for the season’ being to try and give your kids gifts that favorably compare with those of other kids.

A lot of people get depressed around Christmas I’ve heard. Maybe I’m gearing up for that…:o Anyways, those are my feelings. Christmas is a list of extra chores for me, and I dread the commercial aspect of it which will permeate our culture very shortly.

Dear Cap Catholic,
I think I’ll take your advise and go to a Catholic Bookstore and buy some nifty advent items to help set a positive tone. I agree about the early decorating. In parts of Europe they don’t decorate until Christmas Eve, then leave up the decorations for the actual Christmas season, according to the Church calander. Also, my church is planning an advent series of family center ed which I want to participate in.


#5

About decorating, CC, something you could do if you’d like (which we do because we have active, curious cats who can’t be trusted around lit candles in an Advent wreath) is decorate the tree with the colors of Advent until Christmas Eve, then take them off and decorate for Christmas. We’ve found it quite nice and convenient. You don’t have to put a lot of purple on to get the right effect (with a bit of silver and gold just for beauty) turning your tree into a Jesse Tree.

You can still put on your lights before and simply not plug them in until Christmas Eve (we use only white lights so we can light them and not have them clash with the purple decorations, but we don’t have children who like multi-colored lights). On Guadete Sunday add some rose. It’s a great way for your family to have your tree and keep Advent too.


#6

My kids are grown now, the youngest is 16, but they like to have a tree and I have a Nativity set. I have a poster of the manger scene which I like to stick in my front window.

For Christmas this year I am asking everybody to make a donation to a charitable organisation (eg a Crisis Pregnancy Centre or for people in desperate need) instead of buying presents. I think it more in keeping with the Christmas spirit to give to those who are in real need than to give useless presents to those who don’t really need them.

And send religious Christmas cards to pro-abortion politicians, abortion clinics and abortionists and let them know that you are praying for them.


#7

Spiritblows:

As another mother of seven, I completely understand your perspective and apprehension about the upcoming Christmas season. I guess I need to spend more time in prayer to prepare my own spirit for Advent and Christmas. It’s usually fairly overwhelming for me, starting at Thanksgiving. I feel that I just can not provide a Norman Rockwell type of Christmas, it’s so demanding and draining. It doesn’t help that my DH usually does diddly about Christmas, so it all falls to me. And I do know that you are a widow and have carried the wieght of many Christmas celebrations by yourself.

Thank you for providing a place for some of us to air our true feelings about the holiday season. I love the Holy Family, I want to adore Jesus at Christmas, but instead I’m running out to Mass on Christmas eve with wet hair and dinner drying out in the oven. By thinking this through now, I can prepare better. And in this way avoid the materialistic traps laid before me that want me to believe that more is better. I need to go now… I’ll check back later. Again, I’m glad you brought this up.


#8

From the time my first daughter was born we have tried to downplay the secular Santa Clause. We made the choice notto lie to our children about the mythical figure. I honestly believe that Santa Clause takes away from the true meaning of Christmas for a child. No matter how much a parent tries to do both, the glitz and magic of Santa at the North Pole who flies around on a magical sleigh with reindeer, including one with a glowing red nose, able to make any toy and bring it to children all over the world … far outweighs the religious aspects for a young child. They can’t help it, Santa is just too glamorous and exciting! I detest the Holiday shows that are purely secular… especially the movies that claim that unless Santa is able to give all the children of the world presents there will be no Christmas.

Instead, we try to put all the focus on the Biblical Christmas story, the true story of St. Nicholas, the Nativity and Advent. I want my kids to grow up wihout the eventual let down of discovering there is no Santa Clause who flies around the world on magical reindeer. My children know that their father and I are giving them gifts, in the same spirit that St. Nicholas gave gifts to those in need, who was inspired by the ultimate gift from God to humanity, the gift of His Only Son, the Gift of Grace, of salvation. We give our children a few nice and simple gifts. They don’t have the concept of “Santa will bring me anything I ask for”

Materialism is a temptation we all suffer, and it is easy to fall into the lulling and dulling effect, the sedative of more, more, more. Materialism is the drug that justifies selfishness, laziness, disrespect for life.

Certainly we are not the “norm.” My daugters preschool teacher once sent an angry note home because my four year old was telling the children that “Santa Clause is just a made up story and Jesus is real, and much better than Santa.” I have friends and family members who go to great lengths to perpetuate the belief in Santa Clause for as long as possible. From the time I was a kid I had a real thirst for Truth and when I found out that my parents had been lying about Santa Clause, at the age of seven or eight, I felt embarassed and angry. I also questioned whether they were lying about Jesus as well.

Why* fabricate* a hero when the Truth is so much better anyway?

The way I look at it, as parents we have a tough enough road ahead of us in passing on our Catholic Faith to our children. It’s tough enough to compete with the media, music, movies, and, sadly, sometimes even teachers or peers. Why perpetuate a fake santa to combat with the Birth of Jesus? Certainly, if a child is given the Truth of Christ and Scripture, the miraculous stories of the Saints and Angels they will never be disappointed, because they will never find them false.

If we focus on the basics of the Holiday, and all of our activities are centered on Jesus Christ, the family traditions like baking cookies, singing Christmas Carols, lighting the Advent Wreath with a prayer at dinner time, the smell of incense at Mass, the pageants, giving special gifts. etc. that is what they will carry with them to adulthood. It is any of these sights and sounds, tastes and scents, shared with the love of their family over the years, that will last into adulthood… perhaps there would be less Christmas depression in adulthood.

Certainly I have always respected other parent’s decision to “do” Santa with their kids, and am careful to explain to my children not to “let teh cat out of the bag”… but I find it very rare that people respect our family’s Christmas Traditions, and our choice to tell our children that we are the loving parents who put gifts under the tree for them. Our children depend on us for Truth… why should my husband and I be obligated by our culture to perpetuate a myth, when the Truth is so much better?

BTW I like Christmas decorations, and decorate to the hilt! Family parties are also a favorite!


#9

Why be upset that Christmas brings people to Mass who normally don’t go? I like the church as packed as possible. It is the empty pews that are a problem. Perhaps some of them will feel inspired to keep going every week.


#10

[quote=Della]About decorating, CC, something you could do if you’d like (which we do because we have active, curious cats who can’t be trusted around lit candles in an Advent wreath) is decorate the tree with the colors of Advent until Christmas Eve, then take them off and decorate for Christmas. We’ve found it quite nice and convenient. You don’t have to put a lot of purple on to get the right effect (with a bit of silver and gold just for beauty) turning your tree into a Jesse Tree.

You can still put on your lights before and simply not plug them in until Christmas Eve (we use only white lights so we can light them and not have them clash with the purple decorations, but we don’t have children who like multi-colored lights). On Guadete Sunday add some rose. It’s a great way for your family to have your tree and keep Advent too.
[/quote]

I really like this idea! I am going to let my children make pink and purple ornaments for teh tree, maybe along with some snowflakes, doves, etc. We usually have white lights anyway. They also have a blast decorating the tree and will enjoy the opportunity to do it twice!


#11

[quote=spiritblows]Christmas is coming and the thought of all the secularism and greed that this holiday generates is depressing me already. It’s hard to avoid because everywhere you go is the barrage of commercialism that focuses on consumerism. I just can’t stand it!

This whole Walmart controversy made me think about this. Really, I think Christians ought to be more concerned about how retailers have hijacked a religious holiday for commercial gain, than about whether they say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holiday”.

I actually find Church even a little depressing on Christmas, packed with people who never usually go. I always get very claustrophobic. I feel guilty about those feelings, but I guess I’m just sick of Christmas being used to indoctrinate my family to be good consumers of goods made in China, with only a small obligatory portion of the holiday dedicated to God. I guess I’m feeling like “Bah Humbug!” The Christmas season is something I’m dreading. I long for simpler times.
[/quote]

Simpler times? They had their problems, too, in their times… and those times are gone. Our parents had their vale of tears, we have ours. We go to the fields in joy, but they are fields of labor. The Kingdom of God is our work, not our right.

As a grandmother I know used to say… it is time to switch your noodle. I hope I say that gently. Challenge yourself to come around. Walmart doesn’t have what you’re selling. Hijack their advertising. You have what everyone really wants. Look at them as Jesus does: in pity and compassion. They are like sheep without a shepherd, looking in hope at Walmart. Don’t hold back from them.

Advent and Christmas are a time of great opportunity. The attraction that people outside or on the fringes of our faith have for all the decorations, for going to Mass… it is a sign of a deeper hunger. They need to see joy in you, the evidence of what it is that they really want. They do not need to see jealousy and judgement. They need to see rejoicing and quiet anticipation. They need to see that what they really want can only be purchased by handing over their life, not their credit card. They need to know that in handing over their lives, they will look out on the world they left with faith, hope and love, not in disgust or despair.

How will they see that if you keep your light under a basket? How will they imagine that joy and welcome awaits them every week at Mass if they do not see it the one time of year that they go? Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and as Mother Theresa would say, give the world your smile. You are, after all, dealing with the poorest of the poor: those who starve for a living faith.

Live the greater truth of Christmas and Advent. Return to the joy of your faith, the anticipation of God’s loving redemption, His hunger to ransom you and them from every sin and fault, to present all of you to Himself, pure and spotless images of your Creator. Ask that He put His hunger and thirst for their souls into you, too. Invite others out of the tumult and into the quiet. You only need to give the light you have. Trust that God will light the fires.


#12

Dear Oregon,
You give good advise. I’ll try and be positive. You’re right, every generation has it’s own stressors and sufferings.

My plan is to try and shop early this year. I already picked up wrapping paper and ribbon. I think it’ll take stress off of me. Also, I’m really going to enthusiastically participate in all religious happenings offered by my parish. I’m currently reordering my life a bit anyways, in order to reduce stress.

My family isn’t very demanding, so I think that helps. If I have my shopping done, I won’t have to participate in that last minute hectic rush. That will avoid the overstimulating cheesy secular enviornment that irritates me.

How does that sound?


#13

Instead of giving gifts this year we are giving to charity. We will include a note on cards that saying what charity we have donated to in lieu of a gift for that person. It is true spirit of the season and it totally cuts out retailers and other money grubbers. :stuck_out_tongue:


#14

[quote=spiritblows]Dear Oregon,
You give good advise. I’ll try and be positive. You’re right, every generation has it’s own stressors and sufferings.

My plan is to try and shop early this year. I already picked up wrapping paper and ribbon. I think it’ll take stress off of me. Also, I’m really going to enthusiastically participate in all religious happenings offered by my parish. I’m currently reordering my life a bit anyways, in order to reduce stress.

My family isn’t very demanding, so I think that helps. If I have my shopping done, I won’t have to participate in that last minute hectic rush. That will avoid the overstimulating cheesy secular enviornment that irritates me.

How does that sound?
[/quote]

That sounds great! I may do that myself. The thought of an Advent in which I had no shopping to do, in which I did not have to endure bad renditions of good Christmas music a month before I was ready to hear it… my goodness, that sounds heavenly. (I already keep my kids out of the mall during “the holiday season.” Talk about overstimulation!)

Let’s also resolve to be particularly patient and understanding to clerks and other store personnel. This is a very difficult time of year for them and many only work retail this time of year. Think of it! They have to endure that environment all day long for a month. Let’s inject a bit of Advent peace into it for them, too. Wouldn’t you love to hear this from them? – “Christmas is such a stress. If it weren’t for the real Christians, I don’t know how I could get through it.”


#15

I can certainly understand how you feel but look on the bright side. It’s the birth of Christ being celebrated and at least some come home to go to the party.

I have had a great deal of difficulty with the “holiday” tree thing. It is a CHRISTmas tree. Other “holidays” do not have a tree, only CHRISTmas.

This year we are donating. Only the children will receive gifts and they will include religious articles along with something special they may have been wanting. I think using the entire month of December to take part in the Advent celebrations are wonderful. I try to clear the calendars as much as possible in December so that I focus on my family in celebration of Christ.

As I get older, I find I am not afraid to broadcast my faith and if someone says to me, “Happy Holidays”, I return with “Merry Christmas”, because that is what we are celebrating. I really don’t care if someone thinks I am not PC and I don’t really care what the secular community thinks as they are not really celebrating anything during this season, they just think they are. And thats OK, maybe somewhere along the line, they will get a hint of the true meaning and reflect on it. I think Christians as a whole should be proud of their holidays and flaunt them for what they are…celebrations of our faith in Jesus Christ. If the secular community doesn’t like it, they don’t have to join the party*…“Those who have ears…”*

Bring Christ fully into your season and I believe you will have a change of heart (and maybe your neighbor will as well).

God Bless


#16

When my kids were little, we reduced influence and whining by having no TV or Mall after Halloween. Videos, library books, crafts were on board. They “rediscovered” their toys and games with no TV to distract them.

The few trips we made (closer to holiday) were special. There were certain days set aside when we would go together to buy Christmas treats, and this was an exciting tradition. It was extra fun, because it was not just a shopping trip, but a buying trip! We took a list and filled our cart with abandon.

We were very poor. Some years the tree was several strings of lights in a tree shape on nails pounded into the wall. The gifts fro the kids were a stack of used books from the thrift shop. There were years that we were the recipients of the Christmas dinners and gifts good people donate to charity.

Avoid adopting what you don’t like, by creating traditions you do like! We make gingerbread, houses, ornaments, lanterns, all sorts of beautiful gingerbread. On the day after Thanksgiving, while everyone is out shopping, that is our families day to make rum balls. Enough to share as gifts!

If what you are doing is better, the kiddies wont want to “keep up with the Jones’s” they will know that the Jones have a way to go to catch up to you!

cheddar


#17

This thread is full of great ideas! Thanks everyone for contributions, and let’s keep them coming!


#18

[quote=Mari’]As I get older, I find I am not afraid to broadcast my faith and if someone says to me, “Happy Holidays”, I return with “Merry Christmas”, because that is what we are celebrating. I really don’t care if someone thinks I am not PC and I don’t really care what the secular community thinks as they are not really celebrating anything during this season, they just think they are. And thats OK, maybe somewhere along the line, they will get a hint of the true meaning and reflect on it. I think Christians as a whole should be proud of their holidays and flaunt them for what they are…celebrations of our faith in Jesus Christ. If the secular community doesn’t like it, they don’t have to join the party*…“Those who have ears…”*

Bring Christ fully into your season and I believe you will have a change of heart (and maybe your neighbor will as well).

God Bless
[/quote]

Yes, but keep one thing in mind. As retailers try to co-pt Christmas, Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians are *assaulted *by it. You will not gain converts if they think they hear an attitude of “This is Christianity, and if you don’t like it, I don’t care”… simply because that attitude is the antithesis of Christianity. When the walk doesn’t match the talk, the invitation doesn’t even make sense.

When the opportunity is right, I actually inquire if a particular “Happy Holidays” greeter celebrates Christmas. If so, then I wish them a Merry Christmas. If they don’t, I say something like, “Well, it is a very joyous season for us. I hope you find something in it to enjoy, too. God bless you.”


#19

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