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So This is Christmas...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

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Written by andrea bennett

Charles Dickens, Elf, Rudolph, Future Shop and Canadian Tire ads, Turkey drives, bells, Santa, the sound of wrapping paper cracking over an extended boom mic... All cultural productions associated with living in Canada in the months of November and December.

Christmas is the season of giving. It's a shiny season, with two colours from the opposite sides of the colour wheel coming together to form velveteen bows or plastic symbols of a pagan ritual that got subsumed in Santa's giant belly.

Christmas is the shiny season of giving, yes, but it seems to be more about giving things - not love, thought, pause. Financial and cultural privilege are underlined at this time of year, despite what Tiny Tim might think. News debates question the substitution of "Christmas" for "Holiday" when we know holiday's just a synonym anyway. Turkey drives make people feel good about giving instead of making them question the social structures that lead to poverty.

In 2001, 16.2% of Canadian census reportees ticked the box marked "no religion." A further 6.2% identified as Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan, or a follower of Aboriginal Spirituality. (Follow this link to Stats Canada to see the itemized breakdown). Altogether, us non-Christians made up 22.4% of the population in 2001 - and yet, we get to celebrate the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas along with everybody else.

So how do we cope?

Christmas is celebrated by my (non-Christian) family and my workplace. I decided to volunteer to put up Christmas decorations at work today so that I'd feel some ownership over the atmosphere, camraderie at the current of Christmas spirit. As for my family, I will drive around the golden horseshoe and sit around four different trees. I will try to remember that it's probably not a good time to request that my famil(ies) undertake a wholesale re-design of their value system.

But just under the surface, I feel angry. Not angry at Christians, but angry at myself, and angry at Canadians. Why do we pack ourselves into malls and max out our credit cards - why do we comply with the urge to spend money instead of spending quiet time?

In an odd turn of events, I find myself agreeing with a church billboard I saw in Cambridge that demanded we "Put the Christ back in Christmas." I would add that we should then Take the Christmas off the Television (and the non-church related billboards). We should ask that Feist not write any more ready-to-retail songs, and we should stop being shocked that companies who pay their workers a pittance would dare use sub-par lead-based paint in their toys .

We should all, collectively, cut up our credit cards and stop lying to children.

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  1. Posted by: jon on Dec 9, 2007 @ 8:05pm

    bah humbug.

  2. Posted by: katie on Jan 1, 2008 @ 11:19am

    question: "why do we comply with the urge to spend money instead of spending quiet time?"

    answer: "because it's so darn fun!"

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