The Business of Christmas

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When do you suppose it became a business, this Christmas thing? When did it become so big and expertly lit? Was creating a Christmas tablescape always a competitive sport? Did people not understand that Clark Griswold’s power-grid sabotaging house was just a metaphor?

Sometimes I feel like a visitor on a foreign planet when it comes to the holiday season. I mean, I do like the Christmas music and the decorations around town. I do love the hustle and bustle and the crispness in the air that makes me feel like I’m inhaling cold caffeine all day long. I do like Christmas coffee and Christmas cookies and kids in Christmas clothes and watching A Christmas Story a thousand times in December.

But I always find myself a little nostalgic for the Christmases of long ago. The balmy, palm tree-lined Christmases in the Valley when we had little more than each other but a great propensity to laugh in the face of hard times. The Christmas decorations included a tree and its ornaments. The gifts were few but meaningful, and gag gifts were a must. One Christmas, my Aunt Sandra and Aunt Sara and Aunt Cleo tried to convince us that we could hear Santa’s sleigh bells outside if we listened closely from the dining room window. Santa in Brownsville? Did he have to stop at the checkpoint? Whatever. I believed.

Kids these days don’t need to be convinced. Have you noticed that? Santa is real. He is a global enterprise who knows no limits. And they even believe in his support staff. My kids insist on sprinkling reindeer food on the lawn the night before Christmas. The first time Emma brought a bag of this stuff home, I remember staring at her for a long time. What is this reindeer food you speak of? Why do you speak this other language?

They fully support Elf on the Shelf – a character who could easily have his own cable channel. For the last three years, they’ve asked me for one, but I reject the idea so swiftly that the impassioned appeal of years past is now only a silent, reproachful puppy-dog eyed plead. Maybe the finger behind my back – I don’t know. I can barely handle the responsibility of being the Tooth Fairy. Ask me for the excuses I’ve had to make regarding a tooth STILL being under a pillow three days after its loss. I cannot work Christmas for you, kiddos. Go sit by the window and listen for sleigh bells.

So, where’s the balance? How do we preserve the “believe” part of Christmas while still keeping our “best deal ever” consumerism in check? How do we spread the message of giving to those less fortunate without forgetting that people are still in need the other 11 months of the year? How do I give my kids the joy of Christmas without turning them into yuletide gluttons who feast on tinsel and every single do-it-yourself Christmas activity on the shelves of Hobby Lobby?

That’s a tough one. We know the meaning of Christmas, of course. We know of the birth of our Lord and Savior and how shepherds were guided to Him by the North Star one night. But what guides us during this month-long blitz of red and green and all things twinkly? Peace? Family? Forgiveness? Flash sales on Amazon?

I don’t have the answers; I only have this moment – this pause in my own life when I want to be prepared for what’s coming. I don’t want to get swept into a decorating frenzy. I don’t want to argue with my husband over Christmas light logistics and why I bought milk chocolate hot chocolate when I KNOW he only drinks dark chocolate hot chocolate. I don’t want to be afraid of our Christmas list, which grows longer and longer each year as the Lord gives us more and more people to love. I don’t want it all to go by so fast that I can’t appreciate all the little moments. I have so much more than I ever dreamed of having, don’t you?

Dear Christmas, it’s Saturday, November 28th. You haven’t even been formally introduced by the calendar, but you’re in every commercial on every channel and on every store on every shelf. It’s my wish that you will enchant my children as much you enchanted me but that you won’t be a business in my home. We’re going to do this nice and easy this year, Christmas. Just follow my lead . . .

 

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