Culture: If You Can’t Beat December, Join It

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Being an advertising critic, I’ve been mindful of the commercialization of Christmas for years. I see many of the problems and temptations and give in to a few of them myself. I know about Advent Conspiracy and being anti-“hustle and bustle” and the importance of Jesus being the reason for the season. But I have to confess: I’m bored with most of this rhetoric. Sometime last week, after reading the umpteenth article on why we should slow down and improve our Christmas vision, I closed the web browser and thought,

Why do we proclaim these messages ad infinitum? Is it because the problem is simply so large that we must keep at it, or is it because we feel religiously obligated to proclaim them but really have no intention of listening?

I tend to think it’s the latter. Christmas could certainly afford improvement, but I doubt much will happen within its current framework. Consider the following practical points:


Presently, Christmas and New Years are close enough that we connect the two with a vacation. Because I’m taking a vacation and Aunt Mildred is taking a vacation, why not visit each other? This, of course, means planning meals, preparing the guest room, buying extra salt for icy sidewalks and so on. To the fridge note we add: Get roast ingredients, salt, more toiletries.... Cousins Ginny and Tom and their kids haven’t seen Mildred for ages, so they’ll come over, too. Oh, and they need to stay since it’s a bit too far of a drive for one day. Mom and Dad will surely be here as well. Extra cereal, paper plates, more toiletries, cider, finish quilt for Ginny’s baby.... Even if you want to “take back the season,” you still have to plan your many-peopled vacation. And that requires a chunk of December.


Second, Jesus’ birth is a celebration. Not only does it represent gift-giving, it elicits the same response from us. I love the move toward charitable giving and toward giving vs getting, but we still have to research, budget, shop, wrap and send. And because manufacturers and department stores and World Vision know we perform these actions, they send flyers and TV ads to help us. That’s just the way it is. Even if shopping adds stress, we really don’t want to give it up. It’s an excuse to break from frugality and to spend big(ger). It’s an excuse to be generous and make others smile. And – we must admit – it’s undeniably lovely to get stuff. All of this requires another chunk of December, so we think, Hey, since we also have vacation on the Friday after Thanksgiving, why not start then? And where are those helpful Christmas flyers we were shocked to get in mid-November?


Perhaps every household has a decorator. This is the person who says, Company’s coming – toss those old accent pillows. Celebration is coming – spruce up the mantle and whip something together from Martha Stewart magazine for the centerpiece. Kids around? They’ll insist on cutting and gluing and hanging, too. Here’s the thing. We’re basically talking about the biggest party of the year. Add in work and end-of-semester school programs and winterization (firewood, plastic on windows, snow clothes from the attic…) – all normal activities for our current calendar – and you’ve got yourself a jam-packed month and a half. -- That evening after closing my browser, I interrupted my wife on the couch. She was trying to find her own December respite with a magazine. Together we listed the popular complaints against Christmas practices and realized something: Given the current framework, we can’t and won’t change it. Instead of blaming commercialization or some other –ization, we simply asked why our lives look as they do during this season. We could make a change or two for the better, but since we can’t beat December, why shouldn’t we just join it? Post written by Sam Van Eman of New Breed of Advertisers. Photo by nAncY. Used with permission.

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