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X is for: X-mas and the reasons for the season

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
December 19, 2002


"No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." — Francis P. Church

X-mas is a contraction. By taking Christ out of Christmas, we are left with what? In Spanish mas means more. With that in mind, X-mas roughly translates to no Christ just more. More toys, more lights, more gifts, more food, and more debt. From my perspective it seems gluttony is the real reason for the season.

Gone are the days of Chestnuts roasting by an open fire, and the only thing nipping at your nose is plastic surgeons. Silent nights are only possible in deep space and the little town of Bethlehem is a war zone made possible by international politics. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am one jaded monkey.

I'm sure it will surprise no one to learn Christmas is not my thing. Dead trees, cooked geese, over consumption, greedy children, and the wholesale wasting of energy, as to keep up with the holiday Jones's, are hardly what I would consider a fulfilling ritual. Equal parts Christianity and capitalism, this Hallmark holiday offers something for everyone.

Whether they want it or not.

It is almost ironic that a holiday used to celebrate the birth of Christ supplanted the pre-Christian festivals marking the winter solstice, is now being erased by a commercial tradition that finds faith in retail sales. Borrowing from many traditions Christmas has become a mélange of many cultures while respecting none.

Santa Claus, the patron saint of compulsory consumption, was created in 1931 to sell Coca Cola. Before that he was Father Christmas, filling Finnish children's shoes with a gift if they were good, a lump of coal if they were bad. One gift small enough to fit in one shoe is a long way from piles of presents beneath a fading fir. Nowhere in the legend of Saint Nicholas, the kindly old bishop who actually existed, did they mention spending more on one child than most people see in a life time.

Even at a time when war is inevitable, and the economy is poised for a freefall, the call to consume has been wrapped in tinsel and offered up as a patriotic duty. Wasting electricity is elevated to an art form during what is called the holiday season, with everything being draped in garish lights. Plastic reindeers, candles, carolers, elves, and candy canes litter rooftops and yards. Also contributing to overburdened landfills are forests of wrapping paper ripped from packages with no concern for reuse or recycling.

Nothing is meant to last because it must all repeated next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Not meant to last, toys are seasonal. Ornaments for the tree are collected to show the passage of time and distinguish one year from the next. Disposable sentiment, for a disposable society, packaged for the utmost effect.

I saw a billboard in San Diego that said "Jesus is the only reason for the season." Obviously wishful thinking is a major part of faith because Jesus has been replaced with the man in the red suit. On the minds of most people is shopping. Turn on the television; in the 24 hours of programming, on all but the Christian channels, you see absolutely no mention of the man from Galilee. Oh sure, on Christmas eve the choirs will sing about mangers and such, and then rush home to assemble toys for the kiddies.

This year I have been very lucky in regards to having, for the most part, avoided being haunted by the Christmas Spirit. Of course this is made easy by avoiding malls and other places where people gather to further drown themselves in debt. Other places where halls might be decked, I simply blot out the twinkling blight of Christmas lights, knowing it won't last long. Of course I will attend a few parties, but that is more about friends and good food, and is not faith specific. That is except for a gathering on the Solstice.

I am not a Christian, and have no problem saying that. I do however wish the birth of Christ were once again the focus of this holiday. Recently everyone has been pondering what Jesus would drive. The question we should be asking ourselves how Jesus would feel about sending young men and women to war for the holidays.

I am also certain Jesus, the ultimate peace monger, would not drop bombs on Iraq.

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