The Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas seems to have lost its meaning.

Walk into any major store, and you are assaulted with glitz and glitter promoting consumerism ideology. Gone are the carolers, for fear of being politically incorrect. Parties are a rarity, and Christmas concerts are waning, as we move away from large group gatherings, to smaller, impersonal interaction. (Let's face it, we'd rather watch an event on a large flat-screen TV, than participate) Christmas has become a neatly-wrapped promotional bundle, with barely any significance.

I'm not sure when this all came about. I know this is not just some nostalgic disposition, as I have personally seen a change in the very fabric of the Christmas spirit. It's evident no matter where you look; with snowman, reindeer, Santa, and the focus on gift giving, there's barely any room left for the real meaning of Christmas. Instead of being thankful for the winter solstice with the merger of the birth of Jesus Christ, the focal point is commercialism, and merchandising.

It keeps coming earlier every year. First, and foremost, by affording "extra shopping time", most companies are happy to promote more spending by the consumer.  This creates a side effect; when commercials on TV, radio, and newspapers are promoting Christmas in early November, its easy for the average consumer to naturally develop a desensitization to the early arrival. Corporations prey on this fact, and rely on the power of subliminal messaging; buy this NOW! "You'll be happier by wearing a certain brand of jean, or shoe. Get your Christmas shopping started early, so you won't feel embarrassed on the big day!" You know, that line of rhetoric? We accept things as normal, because we don't want to be "left behind".

Now, I would like to recognize that there are people that enjoy decorating, and all
the trimmings and trappings that are associated with Christmas. I am not trying to tell anyone what they should do, nor am I being judgmental. I'm just very observant.

Christmas is a hard time of the year for people. Many people feel as I do; that Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones.  For those who have lost  those they love, it can be very painful. There is a lot of expectation, and that too creates unnecessary stress, as everyone tries to have the "perfect" Christmas. Parents are guilted into buying exorbitant gifts; corporations deliberately market wares in such a mannerism that creates for extra spending, and then create pseudorealities where the need to have the "next generation" is paramount.  Many families put themselves in extreme debt for this one holiday, and when you combine the guilt associated with unnecessary spending, and the loss of tradition or those you love, Christmas becomes akin to a festering wound for some people.

I wish we had the toys that kids today do. Now, I'm not claiming that my mom would have to cut the pockets out of my pants, so I would have something fun to play with, but let's face it, some of the toys that children get these days, are pretty freaking awesome!! I'm thinking, however, perhaps that's part of the reason that Christmas has lost its meaning. With the emphasis on flashy gifts, the story of the Coming of Christ is lost in a digital world.

Maybe the irritated ghostly whisper of Christmas past, is prompted by a combination of complex discord. It claws at the constraints of consumerism, and is stifled by the digital masses. The concept of faith is gone, replaced by a generation that believes everything they read on the internet. The ghost can only whisper, and is lost in the white-noise of cell-phone mentality. We've wrapped Christmas up in a neat box, and tied a bright bow around it, but we can't remember what it's about. The empty feeling we get, is an aching reminder that we should be doing something, but can't remember why.

The ghostly past reminds me of other traditions; Advent candles, symbolizing Joy, Hope, Preparation, and Love, ushered in the Christmas season. This was important, as was the order in which the Christmas season occurred. As each week marked another value and lesson for humanity, it brought about a sense of timing, and purpose. Like a stone built upon another stone, you must place the foundation in order, for that is the way of things; Christmas is no different. This sense of order is missing in today's society, as the holiday is blurred between Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, and Remembrance Day. The meaning becomes lost.

The Christmas tree. One of the pagan parts of the Christmas tradition, the evergreen boughs symbolize life. Wreaths were used to symbolize the sun in the middle of winter, with the promise of a return to heat and warmth. Stemming from a long line of adaptive traditions, the act of placing bows, or evergreen firs within the home during the winter solstice eventually became replaced by decorating whole trees. The adaptive sense of the semblance was that of eternal life, stemming from the Egyptians, and eventually adopted by Christianity as a reminder of the promise of eternal life in the birth of Christ. Today, most people use artificial trees, and a good portion don't know why they even do it. As the semblance is lost, so is the message; it is now merely a prop for Santa Claus. The tradition of a Christmas tree, has now become a farce of its original intentions. Oh Christmas tree, OH Christmas tree......

......Thy leaves are so unchanging. I remember finding, and decorating the "Perfect Tree". Our family would pile into the vehicle, and go in search of "The Tree with the GLOW". You know, the one where you are traipsing 5 miles to the middle of no where (I think mom called it hell-and-gone) with snow up to your waist, as you round the bend, and Lo! The perfect tree! (Cue angel choir) It was as struggle cutting it down, and dragging it back to the car, but we practically floated across the snow as we happily sang all the home.

It needed to be thawed out first, so the tree was brought into the house to melt all the snow and ice. Soon, the house would smell of pine, and oh, how I loved that smell! The next day, we would set up the tree, which was a large ordeal in itself; it had to be straightened, branches cut to fit, etc. My parents would first put on the 20-some string of lights, and then the kids would get to decorate, knowing full well, mom would come behind us when we were in bed, and change it all anyway. We played Christmas music, and sang carols. By the third day, the tree was almost done. Now remember, it's dropping needles on the carpet that needed to be vacuumed everyday, and it needs to be watered so it stays green until Christmas. We would wait until the whole family was gathered, and then place the star atop the tree as the final touch. It was an event unto itself, and one that is lacking in today's celebrations. The smell of pine is absent. The trees are fake, and there is no daily care, so the tree sits fairly forgotten with as much curiosity given by the average person, as the attention they give a magazine sitting on the coffee table

Christmas for me, meant going to Church on Christmas Eve, and singing in the choir. It meant itchy sweaters, shirts and ties that were too tight, and "being on your best behaviour" while friends and family gathered to celebrate, which is something that no one does anymore. It wasn't a fancy computer, smart phone, or a video game; for me, Christmas was about magic. We would sit as a family and read from an old Bible; not book after book promoting Christmas as reindeer, and elves. The religious aspect of Christmas is losing pace, with the corporate greedy 1% promotion of Christmas as consumerism. People don't believe in God anymore, but they still believe in Santa. We've stretched Christmas to a point, where like a rubber band pulled tight, it feels strained.

Christmas seems to have lost its meaning. The ghostly reminder of the Christmas past echoes through the generations. The traditions we keep, are based on something most people don't understand. We've lost the message, but keep going through the actions; the Christmas lights are on, but no one's home.


Niels said…
Awesome blog Zzorhn. You said what I was thinking

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