He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~ Roy L. Smith
Guest Post by Santa Claus
This post is for all the Virginias and everyone else who share my concern about Christmas decorations and paraphernalia in stores, restaurants, streets and even houses before other holidays have been celebrated, including Halloween. And now our beloved Thanksgiving Day is being turned into a bargain shopping day! In my humble opinion, that’s just plain wrong.
When I began my career to contribute to this great season, my intent was to brighten just a little the lives of those who didn’t have as much as others. But, today people have been affected by the materialism of a materialistic age. Retailers have become desperate and disregarding of the spirit of Christmas, and too many follow along as they see. Both sellers and buyers seem to think that nothing is more important than getting something for less, even at the expense of truly enjoying the holiday season as it was meant to be. It saddens me, Virginia, that the hearts of grownups seem to have forgotten the meaning of this holiday season, and that it is affecting the way the dear little children are viewing it.
In this great universe of ours, it is essential that we maintain and nurture the true character of Christmas as it was originally intended: as an interlude of joy, peace, hope, kindness and generosity. Certainly it is regrettable to witness the stampede to purchase numerous items that we and others do not need and possibly do not even want, but that overzealous store promotions tell us that we do. And, all this before we have barely finished our Thanksgiving Dinner, unselfishly served the less fortunate, or observed other celebrations that precede or coincide with the Christmas season.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Black Friday; it is that modern dropping of the flag that signifies the beginning of the holiday shopping season, but which has instead turned into a day that characterizes greed and even violence, unkindness and pain in order to obtain mere objects in the name of Christmas giving! It exists to find the best “bargain”: and you know that they abound and give to your life its lowest feeling of crassness and loss of respect for yourself and for others.
Alas! How much kinder and brighter would be the world if there were no Black Friday! We could return to the uplifting feeling of the real joy of giving rather than the foolish desire to outdo one another with our gifts and purchases. We could return to the childlike wonder and joy of a season filled with poetry, song, romance and the desire to make others happy. We could refocus on the enjoyment of childhood and the miracles of love, goodwill and charity.
Although the focus on materialism during the Christmas holiday season is not new, as evidenced by this short story written by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1850, one wonders how this Black Friday blot crept up on us. When did the Grinch return to shrink our hearts “two sizes too small”?
Well, Virginia, many developed nations are built on the premise of buying and selling consumer goods and services. And, that is a fine premise – in many ways it keeps people free to make their own decisions. While not all people have the same amount of money to spend, nonetheless stores must sell enough goods and services to stay in business, which is good for the general economy and, therefore, everyone. In hard times such as the ones we’ve gone through recently it’s understandable that retailers search for ways to improve their sales. But, there must be a balance between improving the economy and maintaining a society’s integrity and respectability.
Back in 1939, when the world was struggling to end the Great Depression, in a well-intentioned gesture to help the stores improve their sales at Christmastime President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the bold action of moving Thanksgiving Day back one week to give stores and customers an extra week of Christmas shopping time to help boost sales. Americans protested the action and two years later, after determining that retail sales weren’t being helped at all and resulting only in upsetting the cultural trappings of the holiday season, Congress voted to establish Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, and that was that.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the name, “Black Friday,” was given to the day after Thanksgiving, when stores offered their best sales to kick off the holiday shopping season. According to many sources, the name was coined by the Philadelphia police because of the terrible crowds, traffic jams, shoplifting and other problems caused by this big shopping day.
Today, as the world struggles to end the Great Recession, we seem to be grappling with another shopping brainstorm gone sour. In a shameless attempt to fill their coffers, sellers have been starting Black Friday sales earlier and earlier, encroaching on Thanksgiving Day. Not only is this a disruption to a sacred American holiday, especially for those who travel great distances to be with their family and friends to dine and visit, but the whole concept seems to bring out the worst in some people. And, there seems to be no end to the greed.
We might as well not believe in the home fires of Thanksgiving or the warmth and magic of Christmas. We might just declare the fourth Thursday of November as the start of a grand shopping frenzy that will last for a month and completely obliterate the spirit of the season! We can just get on with leaving behind the dreams of children, and the joy of meeting and greeting each other and helping the less fortunate in meaningful ways.
Virginia, it’s fine to exchange presents and plan parties and outings to celebrate the season; but there is no reason at all to sacrifice those precious moments together in favor of fighting others tooth and nail in stores! What does that prove? It’s much more in keeping with the spirit of the season if your gift has good karma and was not obtained through such a painful process. Sometimes a small but meaningful gift or something practical that will improve someone’s quality of life means so much more than the latest and greatest object that will soon become obsolete. Perhaps making a handmade gift, bringing food or helping to ease someone’s burden would be a better way to show you care.
In my heart I know that there are those who are struggling to make ends meet, and the lure of deep discounts on Black Friday is understandable. And, everyone should want to spend their funds wisely. To the credit of many retail establishments, both big and small, such bargains continue long after Black Friday and well into the Christmas season. More stores should do this for the duration and eliminate the need for such frenzied shopping that robs people of their dignity, safety and ability to embrace the holidays as they were meant to be shared and enjoyed. The holiday season is all about family and friends, making others happy, helping those less fortunate and spreading peace, kindness and joy.
Indeed, gifts do not even have to be material; they can be words and deeds, as well. The most real things in the world are those that cannot be seen, but that can be felt. Did you ever have someone do something for you that impressed you so much more than a tangible gift? Or said something that meant more to you than anything?
Ah, Virginia, let’s keep that which is real in our hearts and our lives, and eliminate that which should not be real. Let’s abolish Black Friday, say good-bye to the concept of trespassing on Thanksgiving and bring back the authentic holiday shopping season in all its wonder and joy and pleasure. And, while we’re thinking of others, it makes more sense in this season of giving to focus instead on Giving Tuesday, a wonderful idea started two years ago on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving; now that’s something about which I can Ho! Ho! Ho!
Whatever one chooses to do, be kind to each other, to family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers, as well as strangers who are shopping and traveling alongside of you; in all the world there is nothing else so real and abiding.
A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, what we want to remember is the festivity and peace of the season that will continue to make glad the hearts of women, men and children everywhere.
Merry Christmas to All,
Santa Claus has been delivering gifts and cheer to children around the world for several centuries.
(Parody by Jeanne Nelson, based on the 1897 New York Sun editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”)