I hate to sound like a Grinch or Scrooge type of killjoy but here on November 20th I am bothered by an attack of Early Onset Holiday Commercialization Syndrome (EOHCS). EOHCS is not yet recognized as a Disorder in the DSM IV I have to wing it here but I think that the average person probably realizes that this condition is epidemic in our society. Since I tend to avoid malls and the big retail outlets in general I can usually avoid attacks of EOHCS mostly by ignoring the incessant “Christmas” or holiday commercials of which car commercials seem to be the most offensive this year. However I do have to go out in public sometimes and on those occasions must do all that I can to stay sane as EOHCS seems to come earlier than it ever did.
I had to go get groceries this afternoon and went to a “Wal-Mart Super Center” in Morehead City because they carry a particular brand of pita bread that I cannot get at any of the grocery stores in my local area. Now I expect that when I go to any retailer after Labor Day to find Christmas specials and an encroachment of Christmas paraphernalia and gifts with each passing week. That is a given in our consumer driven society and whether I like it or not it is a fact of life and I am not going to change it. However I just wanted groceries and not the full on Christmas press. Now to be sure I only go to Wal-Mart when necessary because frankly the place sets off almost every alarm in my post PTSD mind and body. When I go my goal is to get in and out as soon as possible and avoid any crowds, congested areas and noise. Thus I will usually go late at night as if I were a stealth commando, but today I needed to go early to get it done.
Of course the store was littered with pre-Black Friday specials and had aisles of candies, cakes, toys, and trimmings. I felt like the Grinch walking through Whoville without the sweet ambiance of that cartoon town. As I went made my foray into the store, knowing exactly what I needed and where to find it I was assaulted by and overwhelmed with the sound of Christmas music which was louder and more obnoxious than usual. I think the most annoying of the songs I heard today was “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” sung by Brenda Lee which seems to repeated about every 15 minutes during the holiday season. I find her voice particularly grating and about as soothing as Pee Wee Herman scratching his nails scratching on a chalkboard when I am out shopping. Now this song is simply annoying but when I hear songs that are meant for worship of the Lord being used as a means to condition us to buy things I get offended. Thus when I hear “Silent Night” sandwiched between advertisements on November 20th in a store I want to scream, not that there is anything wrong with that; the screaming that is.
Now I like Christmas music, so long as it is actually somewhat close to Christmas even even the non-religious songs of which Grandma Got Run over By a Reindeer is my all time favorite, but I digress. Since liturgically speaking it isn’t even Advent yet I find such a bombardment of secular and sacred Christmas songs while grocery shopping to be offensive to my somewhat liturgically correct sensibilities. That may seem harsh but the musical assault at Wal-Mart only increased my desire to finish shopping and get the hell out of the store as fast as my cart would carry my food. It did not induce me to hang around to see if I wanted to spend extra money on stuff that I probably don’t need.
And we wonder while there is little sense of the Holy in our society. The fact is that somehow we have allowed our culture to devolve to the point that we utilize actions and holidays meant to point us in the direction of the Holy and use them to satisfy our most base desires. The Holy is subordinated to the profit margins of retailers who make their money satiating our desires for the newest and greatest stuff that we can get our hands on.
I am not against people getting nice things at all or giving gifts in abundance to their loved ones or even for themselves. I like nice stuff too and I love the celebration of Christmas in its spiritual as well as cultural derivatives. I like Christmas trees and decorations and the festiveness of Christmas especially with friends enjoying each other and a good glass of hot Gluhwein.
I guess I think that when we turn Christmas into a months long pursuit of profits and stuff that it really cheapens and degrades the holiday, even for people that are not Christians. Really, Black Friday is the real holy day in our consumer society and what gets more push back, a store being open briefly on Christmas or Black Friday sales encroaching on Thanksgiving?
Even allegedly “Christian” retailers take advantage of the holiday even selling trinkets that say “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or “What Would Jesus Do?” at a healthy profit. Again I am not against people making a profit from their labors people should be compensated well for work well done. But the fact that most Jesus junk like almost everything else is now made in China or Third World countries by workers that are all but slaves doesn’t seem to enter into the equation for jesus is the reason for the season“Christian” retailers and even ministries; just as it doesn’t for everyone else seeking to make a profit off the baby born in the manger.
How sad that as a culture we have reduced the celebration of God humbly entering into the human experience to a celebration of crass economic Darwinism much more in tune with Ayn Rand than Jesus. Paul writes in Philippians “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness….” Somehow that concept seems lost in our culture.
Oh well, what can I say? Maybe I am a Grinch after all or maybe I can get counseling for Early Onset Holiday Commercialization Syndrome.