Let's All Do It Better Next Year
It happens every year, and it becomes more disturbing as the years go by. Fifteen pounds! The holidays - as I get older, the season starts earlier and earlier. This year it began before Halloween and only recently ended.
Fifteen pounds. It actually looks and feels like more, but I went to the scales and weighed it, and it was 15 on the dot. A disgrace. Christmas will do that to all of us, and modern society gives us little choice.
I am talking, of course, about the catalogs I have received in the mail over the last three months. Though I have weighed them, I have not counted them. But there are plenty.
I am one of the least consumer-oriented people I know. I like my stuff, but I don't live for things. I don't like to shop and actually fear I may, in fact, be cheap. So these folks are wasting their money on me.
A few years ago, I went online to a well-known catalog company to buy my sister a gift for Christmas and continue a tradition started by my late father when she was a young girl. I won't share the name of these simple New England catalog merchants. But they are marketing vultures in double-breasted bib overalls.
Last year I ordered a shirt from a fancy New York men's store, and I feel like we are now engaged. Stuff. My trimmed-down family has cut back from conspicuous consumption to affordable and thoughtful gifts, but we cannot shake the consumer culture.
Like other houses of worship, Emmanuel Episcopal Church encouraged charitable giving during the holiday season. For three weeks starting just after Thanksgiving, the church provided a way to give to a variety of local groups through our Alternative Christmas. This is so much better than a sweater or some unneeded doodad.
Let's face it, Christmas has become something of a monthlong festival of loud celebration, consumption and extravagance, We all love to send cards and get them. Truth be told, I love all the food, the parties, the decorations and the television specials. One person visiting from out of town was kind of blown away that our sleepy little town of Southern Pines has not one, but two parades at Christmas (not to mention, parades in Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Carthage).
Christmas can be and is celebrated by folks who rarely if ever darken the doorway of a church. Which is fine. Think about it. The holiday classics we watch every year: Rudolf, Frosty, "It's a Wonderful Life." Only Charlie Brown's Linus mentions the Bible. (And as far back as 1964, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was seen as too preachy by some).
"Every year, we long for a time of quiet reflection and simple joy, and every year we miss the opportunity," my very wise and priestly friend, the Rev. Dr. Frank Wade, said in a recent sermon. "The world commercializes the idea of Christmas but never the season."
I believe the commercial Christmas often forces us to forget the reason why we truly celebrate, but it is also a time to enjoy the revelry with folks of other faiths. There is no admission fee for happiness and sharing, for celebrating and being thankful. All religions reflect this, and even folks who have no defined belief in God can enjoy a Christmas tune, a holiday cookie and time set aside for family and friends. Let's all do that together.
But we must wait another nine months for our funny ties and crazy sweaters and the pressure of getting it all done. Commercial Christmas is gone, and more than likely took a little Advent from those of us who enjoy the wait. The actual Christmas season didn't end until this past Sunday, Jan. 6, with the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi came to visit the baby Jesus.
So we've put away the wrappings, frozen the leftovers, taken down the tree, stored the doodads, bade farewell to the houseguests, and snuggled in with spouse, child, friend or pet. Finally. I hope we see joy and once again have a seasonal excess - this time one of peace and tranquillity.
And to all a good night and a good year.
Chris Larsen, who formerly worked in public relations and lobbying in Washington, lives in Southern Pines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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