Friday, November 16, 2007

Humbug

It started months ago. Back in September, or maybe even August. Just a whisper at first, before the flood. A precocious harbinger of the storm to come.

I noticed it first at the mailbox. An additional weight. A little less room. Gaining momentum with each passing week. Until now, each day, I am met with stacks of glossy catalogs depicting heart-stirring scenes illuminated by twinkling lights. Porcelain people glowing with contentment and bliss. Offering their secret. The keys to the picture of perfection.

Peddling personalized toys, Fair Isle sweaters and trendy trappings in the guise of memories and joy and fulfillment. All with free shipping.

And then overnight the subtlety is replaced with a garish barrage on my senses. The radio waves become saturated with countdowns, and promises. Slipping words like cherished and love and always remember between jingles for diamonds and electronics at unbeatable deals. "Do your carpets need cleaned? Will your family feel loved? Will your home look beautiful? Will you?" Until even the songs that once made me sing are sending the same message. This is love. This is celebration. Can you measure up?

At home the onslaught continues. Movies framing overflowing tables and breathtaking homes. A man with a beard making dreams come true. Reconciliations. Perfection. And, maybe worst of all: Bleating in and out in the spaces between my children's television shows, with a steady hypnotic beat: "Don't you want this? Shouldn't you have this? Won't this make you happy? If they love you they will. If you love them you will." Happiness for sale at a price much larger than a credit card payment.

And I find myself dreading it. All of it and what it has come to mean. Surely a baby in a manger, hope for the world, a selfless gift of love, was not supposed to become this. This machine that pumps out nerve wracking pressure, and unmeetable expectations, and consumerism in the place of peace and gratitude, hope and love.

Surely we have gotten it wrong.

13 comments:

slouching mom said...

Amen. It's really almost repulsive, I think.

Don and Lynn said...

It is sickening. No other religious "holiday" is commercialized like Christmas. I just told Don this am that it's very liberating to throw away those 10lbs. of catalogs I get everyday. I hate them! I feel as if the Christians who came before us have let it get this way, to let Christmas become one, big, commerical fiesta and it's up to us to get it back to the real meaning. Imagine the retailers horror if they actually couldn't make 50% of their total profits at Christmastime! I'm holding onto my wallet this year just so I know that I'm not letting them, for lack of better words, slut out my Jesus this year.

erin k said...

Perfect post. You have a beautiful way with words.

check out buynothingchristmas.org for alternatives.

bubandpie said...

I don't feel the pressure yet, though I know my mother does. One of those limited-shelf-life luxuries of having children too young to know that Santa brings presents.

Chrissy said...

Oh, you are so right. Every year as my children get older, they get more and more sucked in by the commercials. I guess one of the blessings of being on a tight budget this year (again) is that I don't easily get sucked in to overbuying. It's the busy-ness that robs me of the true meaning of the season.

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh me too Chrissy. In fact I started to write about the business in this post as well, but it seemed better to keep it to one complaint. I really am an all around Scrooge these day.

I keep trying to find a way to simplify things, to bring back the joy.

painted maypole said...

beautifully said.

all catalogs are going straight to trash. and no commercial television for my child.

Lori said...

I thought this was poignantly written, and I certainly felt myself nodding in agreement here and there. However, I have to confess that all of that doesn't really get to me all that much. I feel as though I can see the commercial side of Christmas for what it is, and then continue on with my own path and choices. That isn't to say that my kids don't get swept up in the hoopla though...

I still love the whole fanfare of the Christmas season. I love decorating and blasting my Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving on... I guess I just always hope that as long we stay focused on family and friends, and using the Christmas season as a time to renew our joy and faith, then hopefully God will still be glorified by our efforts. I hope...

Chaotic Joy said...

Lori-I have thought about this all day, about why I have allowed these things to rob me of my joy. I have to admit I am weaker than you, and I constantly feel the pressure to live up to expectations for Christmas. Money is a big issue here this year, and my older children, Brandon in particular, is not getting the things he wants the most. While I believe there is much to be learned for him from this, it is frustrating to know that he will watch his friends receive these same extravagant gifts and much more in addition. Because it has become expected. And as much as I tell him that this is not what Christmas is about, for him it is. And maybe that is a failure on my part. And maybe it's just that he's 15. I'm not sure.

And every time I turn around I am hit by things that I need to be doing for Christmas. Lately I have been questioning them all. Which things actually have meaning to me and which am I doing simply because it's what people do? I feel as if the meaning has been lost in our own home. It has become about running around and stress and strained family relations and spending money we don't have. And I hate it.

And I am trying to figure out how to change it.

Lori said...

Oh Joy... I thought about my comment today too and checked back because I was worried I made it sound so easy. Of course it is not easy. And I know how hard it is to imagine that your children might feel disappointed. I worry about that with my boys too. They are children and they can't help but hope there will be some wonderful things waiting for them under the tree. I don't think that makes them materialistic, it just means they are normal children living in an age of "stuff." It's so easy for an adult to say that "things" aren't what Christmas is about, but when gift giving is a part of the tradition, how can a child not get caught up in that a little? Heck, I like getting presents too! :)

I wish I knew what the balance was and how to achieve it. I do hope that maybe you can find a way to cut a few things off of your list this year so that you can give yourself time to enjoy the season.

One thing that has helped me personally in recent years is to truly focus on the season of Advent as a time of waiting and contemplation. Whenever possible I try to carve out a little quiet time and remember that Advent is a time of preparation, spiritual preparation that is. I guess I always hope that if I am keeping myself centered on Christ during Christmas, then some of that will trickle down to my kids.

Believe me, I have spent a lot of time lately worrying that I have not done enough in my boy's formative years to encourage and nurture their faith. They "know" what Christmas is really about, but I also know that the presents are what stand at the forefront of their minds. Surely though God must understand the nature of children and forgive them their shortsighted ways?

I'll be praying that a new vision for the Christmas season will come to you, and perhaps some new solutions for managing the stress and chaos.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I'll be checking in as soon as I get back. :)

Kyla said...

It IS too much. The thing is, there is this push to buy, buy, buy...and then in 30 minutes Christmas morning the kids tear through the packages and it is over. Expensive, overwhelming, and over. I have a theory I've toyed with for a couple years, but I haven't made the commitment. I know that if we do change how we handle it, it would have to be while the kids are still young enough to be happy with it. I don't know, though.

Carrien said...

amen. I've been composing something in my head on this very subject, or rather, why we don't celebrate Christmas "Traditionally".

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I couldn't have said it better myself Joy. It's hard to not get caught up in all the "stuff".