A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Ever since The Year dot (literally) people have been tying themselves in knots, trying to define the true meaning of Christmas. And, over the last 2-plus millennia, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers and editorials have covered a lot of territory – everything from eternal salvation to Amazon Gift Cards. Good on ya, folks but you ain’t even close. The true meaning of Christmas … is loot. That’s right! Like it or not, admit it or don’t, the harsh reality is Christmas is all about the presents. Let me explain.
Right from the very beginning — Here we are in Bethlehem. There’s Mary, Joseph, Jesus in the manger and a couple of sketchy shepherds. There’s a knock on the door.
“Three Wise Men.”
“What do you want?”
“Nothing. We brought gifts.”
“Cool! Come on in.”
And thus, Christmas was born. Plus the fine tradition of getting useless crap for Christmas (I’m looking at you, myrrh) instead of something Mary and Joseph might actually need – like an extra helping of gold.
Fast forward 2,000 years or so – Here we are visiting Santa Claus. There’s you (as a little kid); there’s a parent (or two); there’s the photographer, the incessant jingle bell music and a couple of over-happy elves. You’re not there to discuss the care and feeding of flying reindeer or talk about the weather at the North Pole. You’re there to negotiate. You’re there to effect a deal between you and Santa so he’s convinced you’ve been more nice than naughty and therefore deserve your share of the loot. You know it’s the truth, but it’s no particular sin. Remember, it was the parents who told you how the system worked.
Add a couple more decades — It’s three days before Christmas. There’s you (as an adult.) There’s a couple of your kids, a spouse, maybe a dog. You’re walking over a crisp blanket of new-fallen snow that crunch, crunch, crunches under your feet. You can see your breath, and your hands are warm in cozy mittens. At home, there’s hot chocolate, and Grandma’s making cookies. The coloured lights from the street twinkle and dance across the early evening, and there’s the faint sound of children singing,
“Oh little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.”
It’s the most idyllic scene, out of the most beautiful Christmas card you could ever imagine … and what are you thinking? Totally stressed, cuz it’s your turn to host the family dinner, you’re thinking, “What the hell am I going to buy Harry/Harriet and Uncle Bob for Christmas? Screw it! Amazon Gift Cards.”
I rest my case!