Monday, November 27, 2006

That special time of the year

We’re in that time of the year where everything is measured by how many trips you make to the mall, or toy store. Americans, who at one time took pride in their ability as pioneers, craftsman and revolutionaries, have been reduced to meandering sheep, grazing at the local retail trough.

I made a brief stop at the Maine Mall, yesterday—Best Buy specifically—to get an idea on what’s available for digital cameras. The digital camera I’ve been using for the past several years is bulky and limited in what I need it for and I’m thinking about an upgrade. I lasted about 15 minutes before the thump, thump of the music and the chattering shoppers near me, made me run screaming from the bowels of this mega-box.

Each and every year, the holidays get moved up—at one time, waiting until December, now, the advertisements arrive pre-Thanksgiving. Back in the day, when Christmas still had some religious connotation, the season took on an air of family, school pageants and carols playing on the AM radio. Now, we’ve placed Christmas in its politically-correct prison, making it part of the innocuous “holiday season,” but it’s become just an excuse for American consumers to stuff their mini-vans and SUV’s with worthless junk, much of it made in third world sweatshops, to fill some nook and cranny of their oversized and overpriced McMansions. Meanwhile, corporate bean counters salivate at the prospects of profits, built on the ballooning credit lines granted by credit card giants, who will just pass on higher interest rates at some post-holiday point. No one worries about paying the piper now, however. It's onward and upward, for a-shopping we must go!

Over the weekend, feature story after feature story was geared to people lining up for an early, post-Thankgiving opening at the nearby retail conglomerate. It’s as if our nation has become nothing more than a bunch of drooling zombies, exhibiting some strange Pavlovian response to an imaginary signal that’s triggered, making them want to stumble amongst soulless outlets, chain stores and big boxes, credit card and cell phone in hand.

As hard as I try each year, like a hopeless Charlie Brown, to get into the spirit of what I hold the holidays to be, in my own skewered version of the world, it becomes harder and harder to muster much enthusiasm for any of the trappings of what the next four weeks have become. I’m curious if I’m just getting crankier each year, or do others feel a sense of disconnection this year that they’ve never experienced before?


weasel said...

You are getting crankier ;)

When one pauses and to remember that Jesus was most likely born in September and that the early church grafted the nativity onto pre-existing mid-winter gorging, partying, and feasting (everything from the Roman Saturnalia to the Northern European Yule) the long view tends to indicate that "Christmas" has always been an opportunistic holiday; a mix of the sacred and profane dating back centuries.

I would venture to suggest that the more rarefied and reverential approach to Christmas is in fact the abberation from human norms; a result of what will be seen as the historically brief ascendancy of the Puritan mindset from the 17th to mid-20th centuries.

The recent insistence that the Christmas period ain't what it used to be probably finds echoes through time, back to the druids moaning about how the story of some unmarried Palestinian mother popping out a sprog on top of a bale of hay was ruining the Winter Solstice.

If all else fails, just yell "Bah, humbug!" at everyone and pray that ghosts don't visit in the night!

Jim said...

I knew I could count on you to validate my crankiness. I’m thinking that a Morse’s rendezvous December 10th might be just what the doctor ordered for all my Scrooginess.

Might we mesh our calendars on that particular Sunday? If not, we may find ourselves out into the frigid January wilderness.

weasel said...

That is a very distinct pissibolity (good timing too, as we leave on vac on the 15th). Let me cross check and I'll get back to you soonest.

Jim said...

With all due reverance to WW's measured and historically-based comments, particularly concerning the origins of Xmas, capitalism's excesses find easy expression in what now is a race to who can buy the biggest toy.

Here's something I found, while somewhat dated, still speaks to my points and as a compromise to his religious leanings, I chose a Unitarian, as non-religious as you can get, when done up in clerical garb.

Unplugging from the Christmas (Holiday?) Machine

weasel said...

So what was the deal with the gold, frankincense, and myrrh then? All big ticket items back in Herrod's day. It's not like the magi brought Jesus a homemade ashtray, an orange, and a 10 dinari savings bond.

The commercialisation of Christmas began in the gospel....