Last year Al and I did hair and makeup and went to a movie, sneaking ice cream in with us. I cherished the day, so we went out again! I'm glad Moyra came this time. It was her birthday four days ago, so in proper heed of the season, we celebrated a birth as we avoided celebrating consumerism.
My opening words in last year's post were "The world is probably my least favorite place the day after Thanksgiving." I think so even more this year. I don't mean to judge the people who participate, necessarily. Well, perhaps without people, Black Friday wouldn't exist as such, and so maybe I am judging the people, en masse.
It's simply a land of make believe, and I can't bring myself to pretend. A sale seems suddenly special. One perceives that money is being saved whereas money is actually flying out of plastic cards under pretense of currency, which only represent credit, debt. Knowing that their spenders are evolving--they can't even wait for Thanksgiving to fulfill its role before Santa stuffs the market--the Stores adapt: they open at midnight, a time that their wallet wielders would stay awake to anyway. The bell tolls, the money passes from one life to another, presents purchased are given to others in similitude of some reason foggy to the eyes which see twinkling red and green, ears that hear jingling bells, those who stuff their four-wheeled sleighs with packages and bags and boxes and pudding and roast beast...wait a minute, this sounds familiar. Ah yes, Dr Seuss wrote a book about a Grinch whose mind was stuck in a perception of Christmas consumerism, and whose aim was to steal things so he could ruin Christmas. Sure, the Grinch was more a vindictive guy who resented being excluded from all the festivities, but Black Friday reminds me of this part:
That look he gives at the end is the face I attribute to my mind when it thinks about the day after Thanksgiving. A day of gratitude for the plenty that the world shares with us, lasts not one second past midnight and then the noise begins. The rush n' crush, pleasure-treasure, deal stealing, reason for the season treason...take that, Dr S. (with this snippet of video i expect no monetary gain nor claim as belonging to anyone but the Doc...)
Don't get me wrong, presents are nice. We want people to remember us, know that we love them. The idea that presents reflect love has long been evolving, along with the shoppers.
Strictly speaking, if anyone should get presents for Christmas, it's Jesus. It's a celebration about Him. The wise men brought gifts for him and his mother. (Here is a link with thoughts on the meaning of the wise men's three gifts) But, since He doesn't have much need for earthly things anymore (what do you get a Guy that really does have it all?) we bring gift-giving down to our own level: presents are for the kids.
Why are there two different words, anyway? Present, gift. French helps me understand this. "Cadeau" (which is a word close to 'cadet' which means youngest sibling, and also to 'cadavre' which we all know means dead body) means present. "Don" means gift or talent. This makes me think that gifts are given as from God to his children (hence the birth of his Son), or as reward to hard work, or as from worshipper to king; whereas presents, we give to each other (which is in essence trading back and forth what God has gifted us).
I heard a radio commercial for a laser eye surgery establishment (weeks before Thanksgiving) that started out "We all know Christmas is about kids." And the commercial continued on about how if you bring a toy to make a kid's dreams come true, you'd get a discount on your eye's own dreams coming true. I've had this eye surgery. It sure is a dream, a miracle even. Hey, speaking of miracles, Jesus healed blind eyes! They should've used that approach in their advertising. "When Jesus was on Earth, He healed the eyes of the seeing impaired" (they'd want to be politically correct) "So since He's not here any more...bring in a toy for a kid and we'll discount the miracle of perfect vision as your present to yourself this holiday season"...
I return from tangent. Presents are for kids. I was just telling Al and Moyra today that it feels weird as an adult to ask for presents. When I was young I had interests, hobbies, really simple kinds that could be wrapped in boxes. Nowadays it's just not right to ask, "um, well I'd like a reliable car" or, "I could really use a box springs and frame under this mattress on the floor." I have a job and responsibility and so asking for presents comes with a taste of shame: I ask for things I need that I can't quite get for myself. Though my loved ones love to help me, I feel like I need to wait until I'm getting married (or have to give up on hope of marriage and find a 'place of my own') before I'll feel comfortable asking for the presents I need/want now.
Plus, I'm happy with what I have already. I have 99% of what I want and more than 100% of what I need. I am blessed, end of complaint.
Why did we learn and why do we teach kids that birthdays, holidays, celebrations are about presents and candy? Why do they get to roam around and collect free candy house to house? Why do they get an Easter basket filled with candy and presents? Actually, participation in these traditions don't bother me. Why so many children do not know what celebrations are truly for, that's what bothers me.
We know Santa isn't a real dude that never grows up at the Never-Never-North Pole, shaking fairy dust on a sleigh and reindeer so he can heigh-ho-ho-ho his happy thoughts into the air and drop presents on the good boys and girls, and coal on the bad. Around the world in one night.
Why do these things lose charm for us as adults? Because we don't believe the lie anymore, even if we try to keep living it. We participate in the consumer tradition without stopping to realize we're not saving the money we're spending. It's hard to feel cheerful living something you don't believe or know how to believe.
A possible majority of adults aren't sure they believe in Jesus, and so the holiday begins to look more and more holey, hollow. Why do I even celebrate this day? To perpetuate the lie, so the children will grin when their dreams are ripped open on Christmas morning--er, I mean, when their presents are ripped open to reveal their hopeful dreams on Christmas morning.
I know of two believing children, two very darling girls. Sure they ask for presents and play along with American traditions, but they have a gift of humility that was given them when their mother was taken from them by cancer about seven years ago. (Talk about a ripping of dreams.) They are so modest in their asking, receiving, and showing gratitude for things. I'm not saying they're perfect kids, but they rank up there on the nice list. Their dad is doing a fine job.
I guess because it was a present, I'm as guilty as the next presenter--but they didn't ask for it. I took these two girls to get their nails painted because I love them. I don't think spending time (and a little money) could ever spoil two such gifted kids.
You know, I'm convinced as children we knew exactly what Christmas was about before presents stole the scene. It's about a Man who lives somewhere Northeast of wherever you are in the world, who smiles down and gifts every good thing to those who humbly ask. We should let the simple, childlike belief in Jesus Christ be the miracle gift to our blind eyes this Christmas season. (I love this video)