November 4th, 2006

christmas

Christmas and retail

Okay, so it's now November, the month where I avoid all retail stores. The ones that I can't avoid (grocery stores and gas stations) I use very quickly, with my eyes mostly closed. This is because I've found that whenever I open myself up to the idea that Christmas lasts 8-12 weeks, I absolutely HATE Christmas by the time we get to the end of December. It also brings back bad memories of working in a mall over Christmas... it was a shocking, awful time, one that changed my entire concept of the holiday. We did an unimaginable amount of sales during December. I don't mean we were just busy. I don't mean our sales numbers were twice what they were when I worked there in the summer. I mean they were 10 times, 50 times, probably 100 times what they were when I worked there in the summer. It taught me that, to retail, Christmas isn't a holiday, it's life and death. It's unimaginable, what Christmas means to retail. So given that, who can blame them for wanting to start it two weeks before Halloween?

Flash forward... one Christmas I wrote a touching journal entry about how sad it was that not everyone who celebrates Christmas really understands what it's all about. Yes, family and presents and big meals are nice, but the birth of a savior is nicer, and it's sad that people embrace Christmas without embracing that (because you're missing out, by the way. not because Jesus won't love you or you're not SAVED, m'kay?). And although I didn't mention it in the entry, I think retail sort of did that to us... make sure Christmas is sellable first, then worry about the incidental details.

But I was thinking about it this week and a haunting thought came to mind... what if Christians did it to retail?

We keep talking about how America is a Christian nation. We expect Christian holidays to be declared as government holidays. We want stores putting up nativity scenes. We want everyone to subscribe to it.

We wanted it mass-marketed. Mass-produced. Mass-Christmassed. And we didn't think any meaning would be lost. Even now, we're angry that shopping malls make Christmas a secular holiday, we ask them to put more Jesus up. Like that'll fix the issue?

You can't reclaim something and give it meaning, and give it to corporate America and the government at the same time. You can't use an easy road to broadcast a meaning that's complicated. You can't spread an idea to millions of people and expect all those millions to look at it in the same way.

We need to pull back, look at what we've done, apologize to ourselves for it, and think of ways to correct the situation. We can't blame retail for this one. Sorry it took me two years to figure that one out. At least I made it.