The Commercialization of Christmas:
In Which Mall would Christ Do his Christmas Shopping?
(Or Would Christ Even Celebrate Christmas?)
by Randy Dellosa
In the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie Brown’s friend, Lucy, describes Christmas as “one big commercial racket!” And while hers is a cynical remark, no one can deny the truth of it. Businessmen know that their last chance at earning big bucks lies in the last quarter of the year. Of course, the only remaining strategy for raking up sales is to exploit Christmas by hyping it up as the “season for (buying and) giving.”
Christmas commercialism has become somewhat like a new religion. In this religion, Santa Claus replaces Jesus as the “reason for the season.” If we are honest about it, Jesus' birth is used as the “excuse” for celebrating a season marked by materialism, commercialization, and hedonism. The truth is, except for a few random thoughts about Jesus, we hardly think about him during the holidays. Instead, our energies are focused on buying exchange gifts for Kris Kringle, decorating our homes and offices with parols and Christmas trees, and practicing “nae nae” as a dance number for Christmas parties.
In Santa’s religion, we, as his devout followers, flock not to church but to shopping malls and parties. Spiritual activities get replaced by compulsive shopping, gift giving, food bingeing, and revelry. And despite Christianity’s strong condemnation of the “seven deadly sins,” at least two of those deadly sins, namely, avarice (greed) and gluttony are most blatantly practiced during the Christmas celebrations! Whether we accept it or not, Christmas has devolved into the most un-Christian of seasons.
Those who are observant will also notice the slow and subtle “secularization” of Christmas. This simply means that the religious elements of Christmas are getting “phased out.” Take for instance the following developments:
- Traditional images of Jesus' birth are now regarded as old-fashioned, boring, or too churchy. While Christmas can exist without images of the baby Jesus, today’s Christmas can never be complete without images of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and candy canes.
- So as not to offend people of other faiths, the “Merry Christmas!”greeting is now getting replaced with more "politically-correct" and non-religious forms of greeting such as “Happy Holidays!” or “Season’s greetings!”
- In narrating the story of Christ’s birth, undue emphasis is given to the three magis/kings who gave Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Focusing on this portion of the Christmas story is the real culprit behind Christmas materialism.
And so, if we go by the trend, we see that Jesus is sneakily getting shoved to the sidelines. For all we know, Jesus himself may one day get eradicated from the very season dedicated to him! And with Santa’s materialistic values lording over the holidays, “Christ-mas” should more aptly be renamed “Santa Claus-mas!”
In discussing the secularization and commercialism of Christmas, this is not to suggest that we become ascetic and shun all manner of materialism and fun during the holidays. After all, gifts can be used as a tangible way of showing our affection to family and friends. And as for having fun during Christmas holidays, it is the natural way to de-stress and recharge at year’s end.
What this article does suggest is that amidst the noise and chaos of the Christmas holidays, perhaps we can momentarily retreat from our worldly concerns and give ourselves the much-needed gift of some quiet soul-searching. In spiritual solitude, we can reflect on the following questions:
- What struggles did I face this year, and what was God teaching me through them?
- How could I have handled those struggles in a more mature way?
- What is God teaching me to accept?
- What is God teaching me to let go of?
- What should I be grateful for in this year that passed?
- What can aid me in my on-going journey towards spiritual growth and maturity?
- How can I translate my spirituality into action?
- In reviewing the Christmas story, what is Christ's personal message to me, so that I can make the coming new year a better one for me?
From the Christmas story, let us draw inspiration from Joseph and Mary who, through their strength of spirit, overcame the difficult circumstances surrounding their child’s birth.
And more importantly, let us draw hope from the story of Jesus’ birth, which speaks of God’s fervent desire to be present among us and be intimately involved in our lives.