BY SABRINA HUANG
With Christmas just around the corner, millions of Americans across the county will flood shopping centers in search of gifts or a taste of the holiday flavor.
Christmas, to many, is a time of joy, of kindness, and of giving. For children, most importantly, it’s about being on your best behavior because Santa Claus is coming to town, as the proverbial song goes. It’s a time in which people take a break from their everyday lives and reflect on what joys and hardships the year has brought and what hopes and promises the new year will bring.
Christmas has been around for centuries. Though it doesn’t feel like it nowadays, it’s a religious holiday that’s no different from Easter or Rosh Hashanah. Ever since the birth of Jesus around 0 A.D., Christians have celebrated the season with revelry and celebration, rejoicing the birth of God in flesh. That original holiday of worship and joy has survived through hundreds of years until today. But it has changed drastically, for the worst.
Today, Christmas is a holiday that is shrouded with commercialism, marketing and materialism. Instead of the original purpose of thankfulness and love for which the holiday was created, we as a society have corrupted the day. Right now, it’s more about gifts, about Santa Claus, about getting something instead of the man whom the holiday was created for and the ideas he stood for.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not forcing a Christian doctrine upon anyone. My intent is not to force people to become Christian; instead, it is to make people realize that the holiday of Christmas that we treasure is not about shopping or mystical men climbing down chimneys. It is about, at least for Christians which, according to a gallup poll, make up about 75% of the country, taking time out of our lives to give thanks to a God who provides so much. For the 25% who identify with another religion or don’t have one, this time should be about taking time to reflect on the past year and spend time with family. In either scenario, nothing about money or presents should be brought up. But somehow it is.
According to a poll conducted by worldatlas.com, the average American spends about $830 in the holiday season. But this year, that number is expected to shoot up to a whopping amount of $992, according to the American Research Group website. What do Americans spend this money on? Among a variety are Christmas trees, Christmas lights, wrapping paper, new clothes, toys, computers, phones, cameras, new shoes, etc. Altogether, Americans will spend a whopping total of $465 billion in the span of the holiday season.
This season for spending is so important for corporate businesses that one study reports that almost 19.2% of businesses’ annual profits come from the lone months of November and December. In fact, Forbes.com reported that companies like J.C. Penny reported a raise of almost 4% in their total retail sales while Costco’s sales rose by 5% in November and 6% in December. At the end of the 2015 holiday season, Statista.com reported that retail companies took in a whopping total of almost $632.84 billion.
The statistics can only speak for themself. From what I see, the meaning of Christmas has changed. It has become focused on tangible items and materials marketed or sold to customers in the prettiest packages rather than intangible things like joy or peace. It has become focused on the retailer and the consumer rather than family and friends. It has become more about gift-giving and competing to see who can get the best deal rather than slowing down and taking a break from the fast pace of life.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find this new way unappealing and frankly repulsive. As a Christian, I especially find this offensive because to me, Christmas represents something that is so important and so central to my religion. Having it tainted before my eyes with retail companies fighting ham over ham with one another for the best deal is despicable. It’s disgusting to see them take advantage of what’s supposed to be a season of rest, peace, and gratitude for their own personal gain.
The true meaning of Christmas is simply not what society has made it out to be. During this time of the year, all of us, no matter what we believe in, no matter the color of our skin or our ethnicity, should take time to slow down and catch a break. All of us should take a step back and take a deep breath because that’s the true meaning of Christmas. It is to love family more than any other time of the year and to reflect on the blessings and trials all of us have faced.