Share in the joy of the seasonBy SHEILA STOLL
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 25, 2001
Let's have a show of hands. How many of you hate the commercialization of Christmas? If your hand is up, I have a few questions: Did you give everyone on your list hand-dipped candles that you made? Were you delighted to receive lumpy, sudsless, handmade soap wrapped in the funnies from your friends and family? How many fruitcakes did you make, and whom did you have the nerve to give them to? Have you been knitting this year's sweater gifts since last Dec. 26? Do your grandkids shriek with delight when they open the homemade wooden toy trucks with square wheels?
Okay, you're a saint, and no doubt everyone on your list appreciates the effort and thought you put into avoiding contributing to the economy. I'm not advocating raiding the nest egg to satisfy the greedy demands of spoiled children, but without the commercial aspects of the Sharing Season, what would Christmas be like? Would there be a Santa Claus at the mall if the retailers there didn't think you might buy a few presents while you're there?
What would happen to your niece who runs a gift boutique if she didn't sell Christmasy doo-dads? Would you want the entire turkey industry to collapse because everyone decided on meatloaf for the holiday meal? (I'd be pleased if they engineered smaller turkeys for light-eating seniors. About 4 pounds would be nice.)
A few things about our holiday customs are over the line. I don't mind shopping, but I hate canned music. By Dec. 23, I'm ready to seize the jawbone of an ass and run amok through Wal-Mart, taking out giggling Elmos and loud-mouthed teddy bears. I want a piece of the accursed little drummer boy who keeps rum-tum-tumming at me.
I like all the decorations on houses, everything from Nativity scenes and menorahs to life-sized reindeer and sleighs semi-launched from the roofs of competitive neighbors. At least I don't have to go up on the roof or pay the electric bill.
Some say the true significance of the holiday is lost in the crush of secular, commercial hype, but I don't see it that way. People do get the holiday spirit. We think loving, generous thoughts about relatives and friends far away, as well as those nearby. We want to make them smile, we want to express our love, and we enjoy the conspicuous joyfulness. What's wrong with that?
Many Christmas traditions spring from pre-Christian celebrations, now wrapped in the mantle of the holidays, seamlessly blending into the joy of the occasion. We love Santa Claus. We love buying that tree, be it dry and crooked or perfect and plastic. Maybe our Yule log is made of pressed stuff that burns cleanly, wrapper and all, but the fire is bright and warm. It's cheery and brings us joy.
We always hear about the lonely people who are depressed and people who crack, knowing they can't afford to meet the expectations of their families. Those wonderful Christmas experiences enjoyed by the people of Whoville, Jimmy Stewart, and all the kids on every commercial on TV don't help. If a person is in a naturally depressing situation, all that jolliness is like rubbing salt in a wound. Somebody's Christmas gifts are stolen. Someone else's Christmas tree caught on fire and burned down the house. There's bad stuff that happens all year long, but the holiday season seems to make it worse. Seniors are particularly susceptible. We're likely to be far from family. Many of us are alone. Try to remember that depression is treatable.
I'm sorry for those who are sad and lonely; I need this jolly, loving season. I'm sorry when it's over. I'm glad I bought those presents and that my newest grandson still has memorable Christmases ahead of him.
All the Whos in Whoville knew that the joy isn't really about the presents and the hype. But the presents and hype are the icing on the joyful holiday cake. Keep the joy. Spread it. And don't worry; free enterprise and holiday celebrations -- holy days -- are not mutually exclusive.
Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanzaa, Blessed Eid al-Fitr and Merry Christmas.
- Write to Sheila Stoll at PMB #309, 7904 Chaparral Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.
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