It’s that time of year again! I am already choking on the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Shoppers are already in spending overdrive, for which when the bills are later scrutinized, many will wonder if they had been judicious. Christmas, without a shadow of doubt, is hugely popular. It is celebrated by billions of people around the world and is such an ingrained part of modern culture that even nations with little or no history/tradition of Christianity are increasingly being seized by its influence.
It is so huge that it plays a key role in national economies, notably via the retail industry. Many businesses that have dipped all year suddenly see their sales soar that they operate at a profit for the rest of the year. Christmas is massive-very massive. Schools, offices and other businesses shut down to give their employees time off, while families plan trips and get-togethers. Churches get prodigious in designing programmes aimed at milking passions for the end of the year and the start of a new one. These programmes get a lot of help from Christmas and New Year celebrations being institutionally intertwined.
Somehow, I remain largely unmoved by the Christmas frenzy. And each time I say this, I get some pretty shocked looks, with many seeing me as some weirdo because I don’t jump from one to 10 on account of Christmas and celebrate it like nearly everybody else. I do not jump from one to 10 because I believe that what drives Christmas, very much like St. Valentine’s Day, is commercialism. What we have as a religious festivity is a road show of reindeer, pine trees and Santa Claus, which fronts for merchants seeking to get us involved in a spendathon, as we focus on symbolising love in relationships, rather than living in love. We may shout “He is the reason for the season” as loudly as we want, but the shout will always muted by the thick cover of shallow commercialism.
I can no longer see the religious significance of Christmas for the very simple reason that the focal point of worship has shifted from the manger to the shopping mall. The festivities are largely led by commerce and retail outlets. The relevant decorations, cards, food and goods are all marketed for Christmas. We are encouraged to give at Christmas. Giving, without doubt, is good. But what kind of gifts are we giving? Those that we need or those that we want? Are we not just giving gifts because that is what people do at Christmas: give gifts? Is this type of giving not anxiety-inducing and largely perfunctory.
The commercialisation of Christmas has gone way out of control and has trivialised the birth of Christ, an event for which the Bible does not prescribe a celebration. The reason for the season, obviously, is commerce. Not Christ.