Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas = glut and greed ... American-style

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer


For many of us, December is the most magical time of the year. For others, the final month of the year is nearer the “final straw” rather than a season to celebrate.

“A season to celebrate.” That begs the question, exactly what are we celebrating?

The answer to the question, of course, is that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. The day is among the most holy of the year.

Christmas has also become known as a season for giving. The tradition of giving gifts supposedly derives from gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to Baby Jesus by three wise men.

In that sense, the giving of gifts has been around since that first Christmas in Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago.

Tied into the birth of Jesus and the giving of gifts is the legend of Saint Nickolas, a third-century Roman Catholic bishop who helped the needy. Saint Nickolas is the basis for what (who) has become Santa Claus.

So, how could two men, Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary — the son of God, and Saint Nickolas, a bishop so known for giving and helping others that he rose to Sainthood in the Catholic church, be so lost and forgotten in today’s world, during the season where the lives of both should be our primary focus?

Greed. Selfishness. Disrespect. All of the “above.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Americans are primarily responsible for the corporate, retail and personal greed and overindulgence that has become Christmas in America.

I think back to the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.” Edmund Gwenn, who plays Kris Kringle in the classic film, talks about how he, Santa Claus, and the real message of Christmas had been lost. If George Seaton and Valentine Davies, writers of the film, could only see how much worse things have gotten since that time, they would roll over in their graves, as they say.

Christmas has developed into a make-or-break season for retailers across America and probably around the world. Money! That seems to be the only issue today. Black Friday is one of the most embarrassing "events" that has ever been created. It does nothing but showcase American's glut for material things.

The tradition of giving gifts, begun by three wise men and built upon by Saint Nickolas, has turned into a free-for-all of shopping greed and the long-practiced American tradition of having to “one-up” your friends, neighbors and relatives when it comes to the giving of gifts.

Another issue with Americans is that parents seem to have lost the ability to tell their children "no." Just how much junk, excuse me, stuff do our kids really need?

I remember when I was a kid, looking through the Sears and the JC Penney Christmas catalogs. I recall wanting a lot more stuff than Santa's sleigh could haul. I also learned that there was a big difference between wanting something and receiving something.

As difficult as it must have been, I believe that the fact that my parents grew up during the Great Depression was ultimately a good thing. My parents and those of their generation knew about what was important and what was frivolous. They knew that wanting something and needing something were two entirely different things.

This holiday season, I encourage everyone to think more about the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. Give thanks for what you already have ... family and friends.  There is nothing wrong with purchasing gifts for others, as long as the giving is done for the right reasons — and in moderation, a term most Americans have never been able to grasp.

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