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Monday, December 20, 2004

Merry Consumas

I only recently discovered when my wife informed me, that Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reigndeer was an invention of Montgomery Wards as a promotion back in 1939. It's amazing to me that something so commercial could become an ingrained part of our culture, especially in such a short period of time. This really ties into two thoughts, one of which concerns the ability of corporations to shape culture (which I'll save for a future post) and the other I'll mention now since it's more relative to the holiday season...

This only underscores how commercial Christmas has become. And, really, all of the winter Holyoke are being brought along with it (Hanukkah, Quanza, winter solstice, etc.). Many people seem to be feeling this of late. One Christian group in Australia has turned to calling what most celebrate during this time of the year as "Consumas" and I'm inclined to agree with the label.

But then we are all torn by two influences to the opposite. One, we don't want to seem like grinches and not get others gifts, and two we like to get gifts.

What I would prefer to see is a holiday where people give one gift to those close to them, and that gift be something that they created themselves - something they couldn't simply buy. Unfortunately I didn't plan far enough in advance this year, but maybe I'll try that next year (which brings up another issue about our busy lifestyles and how that encourages simple purchases over gift-making).

In addition, I would think it better to emphasize to children the giving rather than the getting in children. Instead of asking a child, "what do you want for Christmas?", how about asking them, "What are you going to give others for Christmas?" Seems to me that children should be taught to create something special for others, and not to expect more than they give. Maybe even having them donate some of their older toys to more needy children would be a good lesson. I've heard of parents that do things like this and it seems a great idea.

But then there's another thing holding us back from these more noble thoughts about the season, and that's the fact that many of us enjoyed the tradition of Consumas as kids. It seems somehow wrong, or at least hypocritical, to say that about kids today when we remember being surrounded by consumer goods on our Christmases.

So then we remain torn between wanting a more genuine holiday and the greed, tradition, and guilt of the consumer rat wheel. There's another thing working against us too, and that is the many companies that want us on that wheel. They've got millions, if not billions, to spend on public marketing campaigns, which have tremendous influence to establish what the "normal" perspective on things is. But that's an issue for another post!

In the meantime, here's wishing everyone a happy Consumas, and hopefully a little something more :)

Rudolf origin:


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