My least favorite American ritual will commence on Thursday, and continue through the holiday season until we as a nation are collectively spent or January first, which ever comes first. The ritual of which I speak is the orgy of consumption known as the holiday shopping season. Somewhere between Bethlehem and the present, the story of a kid being born in a stable has exploded into a month long binge of food, alcohol and gift giving that would have impressed Nero at his most gluttonous.
Like all festivals an animal must be sacrificed, in this case we start with the ritual eating of turkey flesh. To accompany the turkey, candied yams and pumpkin pies, cornbread stuffing and cranberry relish must be prepared. As the family gathers around the table the patriarch carves the bird and the feasting commences.
My family usually starts with a blessing that includes a thanks for the blessing we are about to receive and a bunch of other things that I can't seem to focus on because I am to busy tripping out on the dead bird in the middle of the table. Thinking about the implications of an entire nation saying prayers over a species of bird that had the misfortune to look good on both the table, and a Hallmark greeting card, the sacrificial slaughter is not lost on me.
Friday morning the ritual shopping begins in earnest. The media circus goes into high gear, sending out reporters to cover the "busiest shopping day of the year" as if this was news. Like all ritual, people dutifully head to the mall to spend hard earned money on things they don't truly need, and for which they will probably be paying off for the next year. If I am not mistaken gifts are suppose to represent the gifts given to the kid in the manger by the three kings. So, if by giving gifts we become the the kings, shouldn't logic follow that by receiving gifts we become the baby Jesus. Cool. But I digress.
Each king gave one gift to the baby, and contrary to popular belief none of them gave the kid a Furby or a Baywatch Barbie. Now, considering that the neither Jesus, his mom, or his adopted father Joseph gave the kings anything in return, the gift exchange seems historically inaccurate. I'm sure none of the wisemen had to sink deeper into debt to acquire the presents they presented. Yet this is exactly what Americans will do while trying to cover the floor beneath the dead pine tree with decoratively wrapped boxes.
Continuing on with the ritual, we need an alter. This is the Christmas tree. Overconsumption is seriously in vogue here. First it is important to pretentiously place the tree in front of a window so that everyone can see it. After the alter is in place lights are needed to make it pretty. Since candles only serve to burn down the house, I suggest colorful twinkly lights. Next smother the thing in tinsel, garland, and other expensive baubles all of which can be purchased while you shopping for the perfect gift for the man who has everything. Question: if a man has everything wouldn't buying him something be redundant.
Contrary to the popular myth...retail is the reason for the season. So be a good American and consume till you drop. There are only 32 shopping days until Christmas.