Some people have been complaining about Christmas creep for years. They object to the subliminal messages compelling us to be merry, freewheeling, and free spending that assault society earlier every year. I am not one of those people.
I love Christmas. Many people who deal with loss and grief find the holidays particularly difficult. I tend to take the opposite tact. In the past, when my life was crumbling and my spirits were low, I seemed to be able to take a break from my sadness to focus on Christmas activities. The sacred and secular Christmas joys gave me permission to lay my burdens aside and rest from my struggle. It was something like the famous Christmas truce in World War I. For a brief, blessed time, I could call a ceasefire in my war with my own emotions. The truce might only last long enough to sing Silent Night, but it has always been enough to heal a few cracks in my heart.
This year, with my mind buzzing with busy-ness and unquenchable desire for distraction since my mother’s death, I am finding the Christmas truce even more soothing than usual. It isn’t that I don’t miss my mother. My heart still dips down to my ankles, scrambling my stomach on its way, when I hit the sudden patches of sad turbulence that anyone who has experienced a loss understands. Still, Christmas activities help me keep my balance when I hit those patches.
I get the concern, though. Folks begin to suspect that the extended subliminal marketing of Christmas shifts the emphasis away from the holiday’s true meaning and specialness. When you start to panic about not being done with your Christmas shopping in October, it isn’t a good thing. When you realize that you have been humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” along with the elevator music in October, you may start to feel a little manipulated. When you can no longer buy Christmas wrapping paper at Costco in November because they started selling it in August and ran out by the end of September, it can take a little holly out of your jolly.
On the other hand, the Christmas season does provide more opportunities for people to spread a little goodwill. Of course, it is possible and desirable for people to give to charity, cherish their loved ones, and embrace kindness throughout the whole year. Sometimes, though, our day-to-day hustle and bustle takes our focus away from the loving way we truly want to live. Special holiday charity projects, dedicated time with family, Christmas shows and pageants, and even presents can be the catalyst that help us to remember and, at least for a time, shift our focus back to where we truly want it to be. Even the advertising that can seem manipulative can actually be motivating. Yes, the people who make the commercials that show a child inviting a curmudgeonly neighbor to Christmas dinner are hoping that you will buy more greeting cards or groceries or whatever they are advertising. That doesn’t mean the commercials don’t also help us remember the goodness and light that should come with Christmas.
Also, Christmas reminds us of the coming of Jesus into the world. More people attend religious services than at most times of the year. People who consider themselves “culturally Christian” may participate in church events at Christmas, even if they do not attend the rest of the year. I believe you never know when that participation might foment into a more vibrant relationship with God. Even people who are not believers celebrate a secular sort of Christmas. They understand, in at least some tangential way, that the genesis of their celebration is the story of a Baby born to bring all the world’s people eternal life, love, peace, and joy. In any celebration of Christmas, there must be some germ of Christianity. Whenever people let their minds come close to Christ, they open themselves, at least a little bit, to the possibility of feeling God’s love for them.
So, it is a question of emphasis. If we dread the early onset of Christmas because of the commercialism, stress, and coveting, Christmas creep is a bad thing. On the other hand, if we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and try to use that message to improve the way we live in this world, Christmas can start creeping on December 26th, as far as I am concerned!
What do you think? Does Christmas creep bother you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a very merry day!